by Maitland McDonagh|
Three sisters confront their painful pasts in first-time director Wiebke von Carolsfeld's small but beautifully acted drama, adapted from his own play by actor Daniel MacIvor. With their hard-drinking, chain-smoking mother, Rose (Marguerite McNeil) at death's door, her daughters Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins), Louise (Stacy Smith) and Agnes (Molly Parker) gather in the family's small-town home in Sydney, on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton island. Two of the siblings never strayed far from where they were raised. Theresa, the eldest, has been dumped by her husband but still harbors vain hopes that they can reconcile even though he's moved another women into the house he and Theresa bought together. A minor back injury has sent middle sister Louise into a tailspin; she mopes around the house, half-watching television and eating compulsively. The third, Agnes, has a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, and moved away to Toronto. She returns with 65 days of sobriety under her belt and a plan: Agnes knows Rose doesn't want to die in the hospital and offers to care for her at home. Louise and Teresa are skeptical; they don't believe Agnes can handle the responsibility and they don't believe she's really escaped the grip of her addictions, especially since she's taken to cruising around the island at all hours in Louise's car. What they don't know is that she's going to a neighboring town to watch 16-year-old Joanie (Ellen Page) from the parking lot outside the gift shop where she works. Rebellious Joanie knows there's a secret surrounding the circumstances of her birth, but has no idea it's intimately intertwined with the trauma that drove Agnes into a long, slow spiral of self-destruction. As Rose grows weaker, the sisters living under the same roof for the first time since they were children reluctantly discuss the family secrets that haunt them, particularly their troubled relationships with their absent father. The film's revelations come as no great surprise; they're the standard stuff of TV movies and abuse memoirs. But his story of small triumphs and everyday sorrows is never maudlin or sentimental, and Parker's luminous portrayal of the troubled but determined Agnes sets a standard that's more than matched by Jenkins, Smith and the teenaged Page. The title alludes to Canadian folk musician Allister MacGillivray's hugely popular song "Out on the Mira," whose gentle melody connects Louise, Agnes and Theresa to painful memories of a long-ago, life-changing summer.
Rating: 3,5 out of 4