Thirteen year old Jude Traynor (Percy Hynes-White) lives with his abusive father Angus (Joel Thomas Hynes) in a small town. To escape from the unpleasantness of his life, Jude collects objects that he paints gold, saving up to pay off the troll that lives in the seaside caves and befriends the old witch Alfreda (Mary-Colin Chisholm) who lives on the outskirts of town. But the world of fairytales can only protect him from the very real horrors of his life for so long before they catch up with him.

Fairytales were designed to scare children. They created witches and goblins and ghouls to haunt childhood dreams, teaching them that the world is a strange and terrifying place. For a kid like Jude, this fantasy is safer than reality. The troll of his nightmares can at least be bought off. Give him enough gold, and you will be left alone. Jude’s father Angus isn’t so easily vanquished.
Cast No Shadow walks this line between fantasy and reality confidently, showing us the disturbing realities of Jude’s daily life and taking us inside his head to where he escapes, a place that is equally terrifying.

There is a mystical quality to the film, helped by the rocky cliffs and crashing waves of Newfoundland’s coast. It’s not difficult to imagine there is a troll lurking in the depths of the caves in the rock face or that Alfreda, the hermit woman who befriends Jude, is really a witch waiting to gobble him up. The atmosphere of the film facilitates the child’s imagination, drawing us into a mystical world. The stark contrast between the fantasy and reality is what makes Cast No Shadow so enthralling. Jude’s imaginings might be dark, but his life is much darker, defined by tragedy and loss— the troll provides an escape from the confines of his daily life.

At times it is difficult to watch, but with pitch perfect casting and a spectacular setting that comes to life on screen, Cast No Shadow gives us a coming of age story that is not quite like one we’ve seen before. Grounded in the mind of a child who escapes into fairytales to cope and survive, it’s a fresh take on a story as old as time.