Netflix Shimmer Lake Review and Explanation
Shimmer Lake is an extraordinarily clever little movie told backwards. And while it is a little gimmicky, it is a worthwhile, very enjoyable movie whether watched frontwards or backwards. IMDB
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4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

We do clever movies here at THinc. Don’t even bring me your tired retreads of Hollywood’s caste off ideas. No. No thank you. Which is how this movie hit my radar. Netflix + Rainn Wilson + Wyatt Russell + Ron Livingston + Writer/Director Oren Uziel = goodness. and. light. Or maybe not. Who knows really. I literally don’t know how to do hyperbole-less copy. Zero idea. But I was hopeful none the less.

Regardless, here is the setup: Three guys rob a bank. And it goes to hell in a hand basket. As they all do. But it’s just not clear what is happening or why it’s going so poorly. But mainly, that is because the movie is told backwards, day, by day, by day, as you back into the real reason everything is falling apart on these three clueless bank robbers. The movie has a bit of a sense of humor, but generally it is a straight thriller with a very clever hook that you will enjoy all the more if you don’t see it coming. Anyway, here, check this trailer out to get a sense of what I’m talking about:

Shimmer Lake Overview

So let’s dive in, shall we? Generally I like to do a quick overview of the movie so that we are all on the same page when we discuss it below. But this time? I’m going to do it backwards… or rather, I’m going to discuss it chronologically, so you can see how it flows in real time, which should clean up a few missing threads in our collective minds. It should go without saying that the rest of this post is riddled, completely, with spoilers.

Tuesday – Ed Burton makes a choice

  • Ed grabs Stef by the throat… “You don’t scare me Ed! You only kill people by accident.”
  • Ed blackmails Judge Dawkins with a tape (his second time) of the Judge and a 19 year old guy
  • Judge gives Ed the bank vault pass code
  • Ed, Chris, and Andy sitting in the kitchen discussing the heist
  • Stef, standing by the kitchen sink… and she begins to reconsider everything.
  • Ed, “Call it off? This whole thing was your idea Stef.”
  • Judge Dawkins tries to convince cop to shoot if anyone tries to break into the bank.
  • Zeke shoots Ed in the gut!
  • “What’s happening!?” And Stef walks in, “Justice Ed, we couldn’t let you get away with it.”
  • “He wasn’t dead two weeks and you were already cutting a deal.” “He was my baby too.”
  • “Don’t you get it? He wasn’t your baby.”
  • Zeke kills Ed, and has Stef shoot him in the shoulder
  • Andy and Chris run for it, and get pulled over for speeding, but are released as a result of the bank robbery
  • Stef takes Ed’s car, with Ed in the trunk and buries it in the woods
  • Zeke – “This is what happens when wrongs go unrighted. They fester.”
  • Rede – “You talking about Ed Jr.?”
  • Zeke – “Ya, Damn right. Eight lousy months he got.”
  • Rede – “Don’t worry, we’ll get him.”
  • Zeke – “As far as I’m concerned, he’s already got.”

Wednesday – Chris marrow gets in over his head

  • Chris and Andy wake up in Chris’ car near the cornfield
  • Andy is certain that Ed screwed them out of their money
  • Chris and Andy split up with a plan to meet back up at the scrap yard at 10 pm
  • Zeke and Rede begin interviewing Stef, certain that she is hiding Ed
  • FBI arrives, and vows to keep a low profile
  • Andy’s Porsche is outside marrow’s place (Zeke says, “It’s complicated.”)
  • Chris continues waiting in barn for night to come
  • Stef calls Chris and says Ed wants to meet up to give him his share of the loot
  • Chris meets Stef at hotel, “I always thought you hated me on account of what happened to Ed jr”
  • Stef has the money
  • In comes Judge Dawkins – confusion and chaos
  • Judge kills Chris and she tells him to take the money until things cool off
  • Andy, waits in the scrap yard for Chris
  • Judge puts money under the bed and tells wife they’ll go to cabin.

Thursday – Judge Dawkins Calls an Old Friend

  • Judge calls Ed and continously gets voicemail
  • Stef gives Andy a gun and tells him to go get the money from Judge Dawkins
  • Stef has a massive Ed jr flashback
  • Stef smacks herself with iron?
  • Cops find Chris at the hotel
  • Ed calls the judge back and he wants come get money, give me that tape
  • Chris was in w ed on meth blow up? That killed jr
  • Andy took money as prosecutor to decrease manslaughter charges
  • Steph called said ed came and went
  • Steph tells them he wanted her to come with them
  • Andy has been talking to brother, meatloaf tonight
  • Judge calls steph? I’ll pay, $1000 get over here
  • No, he called Chris (green haired gay guy)
  • Andy, why are you helping ed? (Tape)
  • Found money under bed
  • Andy kills judge Dawkins and let’s Chris go
  • Climbs into his own basement and falls asleep

Friday – Andy heads for the lake

  • Andy wakes with a start… in his own basement
  • He steals neighbors car
  • “Aren’t you surprised? Surprise is for the ill prepared”
  • Hey it’s me, baby I got it… money in back seat
  • Non-wife packing, to meet Andy?
  • Tuesday the bank was robbed
  • FBI and police visit judge and he’s dead
  • Non wife son ed Burton jr dead
  • Ed Burton said one more thing to take care of Dawkins was that thing
  • That’s my girl, always thinking
  • Andy shot by ‘state champs’ Ed Burton… no!
  • Actually it was Zeke all along that shot his own brother.

The Humor of Shimmer Lake

So many people are shellacking this movie for being funny in places. I don’t get it. I absolutely loved the humor of this movie. And what’s better? Is that it makes jokes in the beginning of the movie that you only get later as you walk backwards in time. Which adds a layer to the humor I would have never seen coming. It’s such an offbeat style that I adored it. And yet, the movie was intense enough and thoroughly engaging throughout.

The Problems of Shimmer Lake

I have to admit, that I figured Stef out about 3 minutes after she was introduced as a character. I knew right away that Ed was dead. I knew that she was the mastermind of the movie. It just snapped together in my mind. And we also got, very early on, a very good reason for her doing so with the vignettes about Ed Jr. It was just obvious that this was retribution.

What I didn’t see coming AT ALL was that Zeke was involved too. The moment Zeke shot Ed  from his lunch bag blew me away. No idea that was coming. Zero. So while I was fairly proud of myself for knowing that Stef was the real mastermind of the movie, I laughed at myself for not seeing the Zeke thing at all. I mean, even in that trailer I posted above Zeke says, that he was going to give the town a bath, right? How much clearer do you want it to be!? hahah.

So What Happened in Shimmer Lake

If you didn’t understand my walk through, or if you couldn’t be bothered, let me just give you a quick high level overview to tell you exactly what went down in Shimmer Lake as I saw it. Don’t get me wrong, I have been wrong once before. So feel free to correct me in the comments. (Which, I am sure you will enjoy doing with great panache and fanfare.)

Back in the day Ed, Stef and Zeke were the best of friends. They did everything together. Zeke and Ed were on the same football team. Everything. But one day, while Ed and Stef were dating, Zeke gets Stef pregnant. But Zeke and Stef decide to let Ed think that the kid is his.

Several years later, Ed and Chris were cooking meth out on a house boat? Ed Jr. was sick that day, and stayed home from school. Stef was at work. And there was an explosion as they were cooking. Ed Jr. was killed. Ed and Chris were prosecuted for drugs and manslaughter. But they brokered a deal with the prosecutor, who was Andy at the time. They got 18 months in prison and then were out. And Andy bought a Porsche with the money.

Somehow Ed gets a tape of the Judge and a young man having sex, and he blackmails him with it. And a few years later, Stef decides that since the straight and narrow isn’t working, Ed should rob the bank. That Chris and Andy would fall inline in a heartbeat. So Ed decides to use the same tape to blackmail him again in order to get the combination to the safe. Zeke is on duty and watching the safe at the time when Andy and Ed stage the robbery.

Ed shoots Zeke, and then Stef tells him that it is retribution for the death of Zeke’s and Stef’s son. And Zeke shoots him in the head. They put him in the back of Ed’s Trans Am, and Stef buries it. Stef calls Chris and tells him that Ed wants to split the proceeds of the robbery with him. And while she is talking to him, the Judge comes in and kills Chris after after everything starts getting heated about the tape. Which, Chris knows nothing about.

Stef tells the Judge to take the money until it cools down. And then she tells Andy to take her hand gun and to go and get the money. Andy goes and finds the Judge with a young guy. Andy ends up killing the Judge and letting the kid go. He runs out to Shimmer Lake and waits for Stef to arrive. When she arrives, Zeke is with her, and he shoots his brother and leaves him for dead… knowing full well that Ed would be blamed for the murders as long as his body isn’t found.

Does that make sense? Am I at least half way there? I really did enjoy this movie. But it isn’t going to play for everyone that is for sure. But man I enjoyed it. What did you think of it?

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17 Responses

  1. Dean

    Only one person in the move has a STATE CHAMPS BACK2BACK tattoo on the outside of his right forearm – Ed. We see the tattoo and its placement when Andy is shot at the lake on Thursday night.

    Zeke’s right forearm is bare, as is Andy’s, Stef’s, Chris’s, green hair’s, and the deputy’s. Watch carefully (fyi, Tuesday is when they’re all in Zeke’s squad car discussing the state championship game).

    So on Tuesday Ed is shot and buried, then – based on the facts the movie has shown
    us – returns to shoot Andy two days later on Thursday. Shimmer Lake is a victim of its own continuity, and makes zero sense.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Incorrect.
      Both of the men were on the same team. Both must have gotten the same tattoo. Heck, the whole team could have gotten them. I watched carefully for Zeke to show enough of his right outer arm to confirm or deny this, and just never get that shot. Which, I love actually. Why spoon feed me some pedantic nonsense, when I can put it together myself…

      Just saying.

      Reply
      • Pete Christophersen

        I believe Taylor is correct on this. The entire movie Zeke’z arm’s are covered by his uniform shirt. EXCEPT for the night Andy is killed (by Zeke) in which the right arm is shown with Zeke’s brown long sleeve shirt rolled up (very quick shot of this). At first I thought it was a continuity problem with ED, but then realized that it all makes sense since they were on the same football team and it seems believeable that, given Zeke’s ability (as told in the story in the squad car), everyone on the team probably got the back to back state champs tatt. This brings new relevance to the scene where they are discussing the high-school football game.

      • Taylor Holmes

        When I was watching the film, one of the scenes that stood out to me was the one in the cop car with Zeke, Chris & Ed, where they were talking about the play that Zeke ran on the fifty. Just didn’t make sense. Until I realized that the entire point of that scene was to let us know that they were all on the same football team, that they used to be very close.

        But why? Why establish this for us? Couple reasons. To let us know that Zeke, Stef, and Ed were very close and football was a part of that. Also, to let us know that they could have all gotten the same tattoo together.

        As I was watching the movie, I kept thinking back to the opening scene, and I was assuming that it would be shown that it was actually Stef pulling the trigger. Because I had already determined, as a fact, that Ed was dead at that point. But I couldn’t figure out the Andy shooting scene. String? Crazy glue and second gun? I was sore confused. But I also hand’t figured out that Zeke was involved. (Which came as a total shock, I must add.) And that solves it. Definitively. Like 100%. Ed didn’t shoot Andy. Ed was buried in the ground, in the trunk of his car. Definitively dead. (Actually one of the problems I had with the movie was the lack of blood from Ed’s head shot… pretty fake that.)

        But when Zeke shot Ed in the gut through the paper bag? And Stef walked in to the bank? It all snapped together for me.

      • Kam

        After Zeke shot Ed, Zeke gives himself a shot before Steph shots him…the tattoo is on that arm

    • Dave

      Wrong. At 1:15:53 Zeke is injecting an aesthetic into his shoulder before taking a bullet and the State Champs tattoo is there on his right forearm.

      What I found odd was that he would kill his own brother for the crime of taking a bribe. Yes it was over his son’s death but Andy didn’t kill the boy, Zeke on the other hand killed his own flesh and blood, a much worse crime than the crime of his brother.

      Reply
  2. Pete Christophersen

    Taylor,

    Really enjoyed reading this. I only have one edit suggestion to make!

    In your day-by-day lisitng, this bullet point on Wednesday:
    “Ed meets Stef at hotel, “I always thought you hated me on account of what hap
    pened to Ed jr”.
    should actually be Chris (I believe). Ed is already dead at this point.

    Reply
  3. Piper

    Thanks for the breakdown. One correction – 3rd to last paragraph “Zeke shoots Ed” not the other way. Another twist – you call her Staphanie, I call her Hephanie. Why? I think Stephanie was also with Andy. At minute 14 when Andy is walking to the car to put the money in the trunk, Stephanie says “hey babe”. Why call Andy babe? At minute 15 (the day before when Stephanie gives Andy the gun), Andy say “I have to figure out how I can get the money so WE can get the hell out of here?” Why did he say WE? Ok it could be the entire gang, but her sexy walk off tells more. At minute 1:02 to 1:03 Andy gives weird looks look at Ed & Stephanie when they are privately chatting. To add more damage, she was not afraid to tease Chris in the shower scene. Thoughts? Am I wrong?
    My last 2 cents, did you guys get the Wendy date scene?

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Oh I totally think Stef was playing Andy. Completely. Andy was one of the people she hated for killing her son. I just assumed that was clear.

      Stef does make mention of the fact that Zeke said they’d do whatever you wanted. Meaning, that Stef could string all three along and get them to go along with the bank robbery scene. And Andy was also included in that trio. She played him intentionally. Notice the shower scene with Chris. She was throwing him off on purpose, just like she did to Andy.

      (as for the edit, I can’t find that one.)

      Reply
  4. De Advocate

    I really enjoyed this one all around. I liked how all the pieces slid into place at the end. The car scene discussing football definitely sets up the emotional bond they once had, creates a reason Zeke also had Ed’s tattoo, gives us a point to ponder life and loss and maybe what could have been between all of them. Of course once Ed Jr. died, the end was a certainty. But why did Stephanie tell Ed he could call it off at any time? She still loved him. Didn’t seem like it when Zeke blew his brains out. No remorse there.
    I felt Zeke was going to be involved somehow. The tattoo was the red herring. But Ed’s rant about the fat fucks put me back on track LOL! Plus when cute kids swear it is always pretty funny for some reason. On TV anyway. It’s not funny when it’s your own kids.

    Reply
  5. De Advocate

    Rats, no Edit…note to self PROOF READ first!
    OK, She still loved him? (QUESTION MARK)
    But ZEKE”S rant (not Ed’s)
    OK, hope I got them all.

    Reply
  6. Ari

    Good concept. Good execution. The comedic parts kinda creeped me out. Martha urging Zeke to start his own family felt like a clue, I just didn’t catch it. Nice clean & closed story.

    Next please.

    Reply
  7. Kathy Fox

    I thought the movie was good. I was surprised by the ending. I didn’t see Zeke’s involvement coming at all. I was wondering if I missed Zeke’s tattoo earlier in the movie I didn’t feel like rewatching it. So I’m glad that others did it for me.

    Reply
  8. Rob

    How did the money get from the bank to the hotel room?

    How could the movie end with Andy hiding in the basement when he was killed earlier?

    Reply
  9. zeph

    The red herring tattoo was well done, but…

    OK, so Zeke & Steph’s plan all along was to setup Ed, Andy, Chris and the Judge to be killed in revenge for Ed Jr, and apparently to escape with the money. Zeke killed Ed, the Judge killed Chris, Andy killed the Judge, and Zeke killed Andy.

    How did Steph get in the bank without any of the other non-Zeke characters knowing? I suppose Zeke let her in after the Judge left and before Ed arrives?

    Why was Ed’s car at the bank to stuff him into and then bury, if Chris was driving the getaway car for them?

    Apparently, the heavy money bag was taken in Ed’s car too, and removed before burying (another car waiting at the car burial site?)

    What was the purpose (in Zeke & Steph’s plan) for giving the money to the Judge to hold? How could they know that Andy would kill the Judge (one of their targets) or that he would successfully retrieve the money (so that they could in turn retrieve it from Andy at the end)?

    How could Steph know that the Judge would kill Chris? What did she have in mind with her tease if the Judge had not showed up and taken Chris’ gun and then shot him in a panic?

    Are Zeke and Steph going to run away with the money? Wouldn’t the disappearance of the sheriff cause some more investigation? Like the blood on the bank floor not matching Zeke (and not being enough to account for Zeke shooting Ed in the head), Zeke’s false claim to being allergic to painkiller but showing no sign of pain at being shot, no bullet was removed, Zeke supposedly fired at the fleeing car but missed and then lie down again exactly in the blood pool, an automatic weapon was used at a hotel room where Chris died but which was rented by Steph, etc.

    This many people being killed (including a judge and senate candidate) would involve a more serious investigation, and there were too many loose ends. So maybe they planned to escape. Zeke and Steph suddenly being missing would raise questions.

    Not quite as tightly plotted as one might hope, but an interesting way to string out the audience via reverse presentation.

    Reply

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