Marion Bridge

Director: Wiebke von Carolsfeld

2002. Colour. Dolby stereo. 98 minutes.

Winner of the ‘Best Canadian First Feature’ award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002, this sharply scripted and impeccably acted drama takes the raw ingredients of soap opera-the spilling of family secrets and the opening of old wounds as a parent slips away-and spins them into something that’s both truthful and compassionate. Three estranged sisters are reunited at their childhood home in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where their mother is dying of terminal cancer. Youngest sibling Agnes (an incandescent Molly Parker), who’s recovering from drink and drug abuse, journeys home from Toronto. Sisters Louise (Stacy Smith) and Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins) greet the prodigal daughter with indifference and suspicion, respectively.
We expect an ultimate showdown between the three sisters, and the film delivers one that contrives to be an expertly calibrated study in anticlimax. The strength of first-time director Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s film (adapted by Daniel MacIvor from his award-winning play) is in its subtle accumulation of telling gestures and small details that speak volumes. Von Carolsfeld’s direction elicits nuanced turns from every member of the cast and her film derives its dramatic tension and wry humour from the protagonists’ ability to chatter ceaselessly yet never mention the things most vital to them.

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