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TIFF 2022 Review: Canary

In 1922, an adolescent coalminer teaches a caged canary how to play dead which leads to mischievous antics and unexpected consequences.

Placed in charge of a caged canary used to detect carbon monoxide and other toxic substances by being the first one to die, Sonny decides to have some fun by having the bird pretend to be deceased on cue;  it allows for some false alarms that result in him returning the wide-open spaces of the surface but less fun is when an actual explosion occurs.

Rather than rely on dialogue, co-directors Pierre-Hugues Dallaire and Benoit Therriault have decided to let the actions of the characters do the speaking for them; they have made a wise decision as there is polish to the animation, character designs and atmospherics that is immersive.  This is not surprising as the short was produced by renowned Canadian visual effects company Rodeo FX which has worked on projects such as Blade Runner 2049 and Stranger Things.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage

Initially, the tone is light as you can understand why the main character would like to escape the drudgery and constriction of the mines for the sunshine and green fields; and of course, let’s not forget the fact of him being a child. But there is a narrative shift where the comedy literally gives way to drama that reveals a dark undercurrent in the tradition of faerie tales.  At first, this is jarring but in reality, a necessary story point as the childish actions are irresponsible and need to be shown for what they are.  It will be interesting to see Rodeo FX branch out further into producing as the talent is present to graduate into animated feature films.

The 47th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8-18, 2022, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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