Reviewed by Angus Wolfe Murray|
Families? Who wants them?
You could say that about anything, of course - mothers-in-law, boy bands, toilet seat covers - but there is something deeper than mistrust about family ties and it doesn't matter how hard you try to cut them, they remain emotionally rooted in blood.
When Agnes (Molly Parker) returns from Toronto to her small home town in Nova Scotia, sisters Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins) and Louise (Stacy Smith) are hardly ecstatic; she has a history of alcoholism and drug dependency.
"You'll make a big ruckus, get everyone upset and leave," Theresa says. "That's what you've always done."
Louise surfs the TV channels, clinically bored, unable to make a decision about whether ice hockey is more important than finding out about her sexuality.
Daniel MacIver's script, based on his play, is full of exchanges, such as "What?" "Nothing" "What?", which brings a kind of poetry to dysfunction. The most common term of abuse is "Shut up!", but what matters more is that the art of conversation is not dead, however twisted, or bitter.
Their mother is dying, which concentrates Agnes's mind, since caring for her appears to be part of a self-imposed recovery programme. There is another reason for coming home, a l6-year-old girl, called Joni, whose physical resemblance to this slim, chain smoking sophisticate from the wicked city is uncanny.
The film allows the audience to make up its own mind. Everyone carries baggage and their backstories remain hidden - why does Theresa attend prayer meetings and carry on an illicit affair? Why has Louise let herself go, when she could have been the most beautiful of all? What does Agnes want in this featureless, cold place, other than reconciliation with a teenager, whom she abandoned as a baby? - rather than exposed in a series of grainy flashbacks.
The honesty of MacIver's writing and the integrity of Wiebke von Carolsfeld's direction is matched by uncompromising performances. Parker has mastered the edgy, vunerable, controlled nervousness of a woman on the edge of an abyss so well now that everything is revealed in her responses, the flicker of an eyelid, the body's vocabulary, the tension beneath the skin.
The message reads: "Pain heals."
Rating: 3,5 out of 5