By Louis B. Hobson, published on April 18, 2003|
To point out that Marion Bridge is a woman's flick is not to criticize or demean. It simply states a most obvious fact.
Though men are responsible for most of the tragedy in this Canadian film, opening at the Princess Theatre today, they do not appear. They're always somewhere just off-camera or, if they are glimpsed, it's in the corner of the camera's eye.
This is the story of three sisters who live a small Cape Breton community. Their mother Rose (Marguerite McNeil) is dying so Agnes (Molly Parker) comes home from Toronto where she has been living. Maybe not exactly living, considering Agnes is in a recovery program to battle her addiction to alcohol and cocaine. She used booze and drugs to hide an emotionally crippling secret which she'll have to face when she returns home.
Given that Agnes immediately begins spying on a 16-year-old girl (Ellen Page) who's a younger version of herself, it's pretty obvious what her deep, dark secret is.
Then again, the secrets of her two sisters are just as obvious though writer Daniel MacIvor and director Wiebke von Carolsfeld pretend otherwise.
Her oldest sister Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins) is as bitter as she is religious and she spends her time spying on her husband who dumped her for a younger woman.
Agnes is determined to make her middle sister, Louise (Stacy Smith), admit her lesbian feelings for a woman (Hollis McLaren) at their church.
Given Marion Bridge trots out almost every cliche of the chick flick, it is all the more remarkable that it works as well as it does. It really is compelling viewing because MacIvor knows how to write concise, realistic dialogue and von Carolsfeld directs without sentimentality.
Then there are the exceptional performances. Parker is a marvel. She is one of the finest actresses of her generation because she is able to show both the strengths and vulnerability of her characters.
She can do more with silence than most actors can with dialogue. She gets such strong support from the supporting cast that the melodrama works far better than it should.
Marion Bridge is a stronger, more credible version of the dysfunctional family dynamics that fuelled its American counterpart Lovely & Amazing.
(This film is rated 14-A)