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TIFF 2022 Reviews: Bones of Crows, The Swearing Jar

courtesy of TIFF

Bones of Crows

Inspired by true events, Marie Clements’ sophomore fictional feature, Bone of Crows, follows Aline (played at different ages by Summer Testawich, Grace Dove, and Carla Rae), an Indigenous woman born in the 1920’s that is viciously ripped away from her loving family by the Canadian government as part of the residential school system.  There, her and her siblings are kept in a state of constant malnutrition and suffer at the hands of the nuns and priests that run the school, a place meant to strip them of all culture and language.  As Aline later says, the only things they learned was, “an education in unrelenting cruelty.”

Later in life, Aline enlists in the Canadian army, where during World War II she is actually valued for her fluency in Cree.  But while Aline later is able to have a family and a home, the trauma of her past echoes through her life, and she becomes perpetually worried that any joy she amasses will be stripped away from her, just as everything good in her life was as a child.

Bones of Crows tells an absolutely essential story, something that as a Canadian I can tell you they don’t teach you in school, where we are fed glossed-over versions of our own history.  It’s not easy to watch, nor should it be.  Clements very rightly shows the horrors of oppression in this country.  Yet as essential as it is, the non-linear storytelling in the film just doesn’t land as well as it should and a sub-plot involving Aline’s sister is underdeveloped.  

Bones of Crows is set to be released in an expanded 5-part mini-series next year and with everything this film needs to (and should) convey I feel the long format will suit it much better. 

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Courtesy of TIFF

The Swearing Jar

The follow-up to 2014’s festival darling Wet Bum, director Lindsay Mackay brings us The Swearing Jar, a film that tells the story of Carey and Simon, a married couple navigating the early stages of pregnancy.  On the surface, the pair share an affable, joyous relationship full of quick wit and jokes.  But sometimes it’s what’s left unsaid that huts us the most.  It’s not the swearing, it’s the secrets.

The Swearing Jar has one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen in quite some time – it’s surprising and hilarious, at least if you’re a fan of cuss words.  In fact the script from Kate Hewlett truly weaves some great laugh-out-loud moments into some of the film’s more serious scenes.  The cast, including Adelaide Clemens (Rectify), Patrick J. Adams (Suits), Douglas Smith (Big Little Lies, The Alienist) and legend Kathleen Turner seem quite game to play up the humour though it’s not surprise that Turner can still steal a scene.  

Mackay employs a unique approach to the narrative storytelling here.  It’s hard to go into a lot of detail without significant spoilers but there is some mystery and intrigue to be unravelled in this plot and it’s quite well done.  At least for the first two acts of this film.  I was absolutely enthralled and loving this film – a firm 4/5 rating -, but once it got to the final act it, unfortunately, became drawn out, overlong and unnecessary.  The method of storytelling which to that point had been so clever, draws out just one last outstanding detail so long that it creates vast frustration.   It’s an unfortunate final act that ultimately drags down such a wonderfully promising film

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