marion bridge (2002)


director: wiebke von carolsfeld

molly parker, rebecca jenkins, stacy smith

The Maritimes have become the choice setting for the sort of low-wattage emotional dramas produced by the Canadian film industry in these hunkered-down, unsure times. You can be guaranteed that any film that begins with panning shots over wood-frame houses by dirt roads, inlets at low tide, and yards full of broken boats and trucks will take you on a ride as cautiously risky as a ride at night without headlights.

Three sisters are living together in their family home in Sydney, brought back together by their motherís impending death. Agnes (Molly Parker) is the pretty one with a past, home from Toronto and on the wagon for three months. Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins, the filmís standout performance) is separated from her husband, and Louise (Stacy Smith) has retreated into a dull routine of beer and hockey on TV.

While we wait for Agnes to fall off the wagon, Theresa lives at the beck and call of her ex, and Louise seems to be on the verge of coming out of the closet. Their mother, installed in an upstairs bedroom, sneaks cigarettes and drinks openly, and they all circle each other warily, prodding and sulking according to the sighing rhythms of Daniel MacIvorís script.

Agnes has begun stalking Joanie (Ellen Page) a young girl - the familyís dark secret, as it turns out, and when it turns out to be incest, thereís a brief moment when the film threatens to give off some dramatic heat.

No such luck, though. This detail simply recedes into the brown-on-gray texture of the film, where the motherís death, the reconciliation of the three sisters, and Agnesí re-connection with her daughter are as inevitable as the daily tide and the fiddle music on the soundtrack. The only surprise happens when Louise turns up, not with a lover, but with a bright red pickup truck. That this is the sole moment of colour in the whole film, not to mention the only feint at humour or wit, says everything you need to know about Marion Bridge.