Director/producer Hugh Gibson is a skilled filmmaker with an extremely bright future. His documentary The Stairs has a particularly formalist (not formulaic) feel to it. The story of recovering addicts who work as staff members at Toronto’s Regent Park Community Health Centre is a difficult one with which to engage, though Gibson manages to do so eloquently.
The major difficulty in capturing the stories of Marty, who comes off as the main subject, as well as Greg and Roxanne is that the narrative of recovering from addiction is not always entirely compelling and it’s difficult to stay focused at times. Instead of probing so closely into their arc, the film could have instead perhaps detoured into the greater narrative of the root causes of addiction, rather than relying on anecdotal testimony.
Perhaps the most superficial element of The Stairs is that the story feels like it takes place in another place, a location that is outside the sphere of conscious. Then a Toronto streetcar passes, and the audience realizes that this film hits close to home.