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TIFF 2018 Review: Through Black Spruce

Through Black Spruce, based on the 2008 novel by Joseph Boyden, follows Annie Bird (a captivating Tanaya Beatty), a young Cree woman from Moosonee, as she travels to Toronto in search of her missing sister.

While Annie navigates the big city, and explores her own identity in the process, her Uncle Will (Brandon Oakes) remains at home in Moosonee confronting the local drug trade. He also embarks on a personal journey to reconcile past traumas.

Director Don McKellar does well to keep things moving despite the weight of the underlying themes. The story is centred around a missing woman but subtly includes issues facing Indigenous communities, both in the rural and urban context, including multigenerational trauma. The cast, including legend Graham Green, certainly elevates the material.

The screenplay opts for a more linear narrative than the book and it mostly works. Though, the shifting perspectives favoured by Boyden may have made for a more compelling, if challenging, adaption. Nonetheless, McKellar and his excellent cast have crafted a worthy depiction of the Indigenous experience.

3.5
Dani Saad

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Unless you're Harry Potter in which case you'll lose... everything.