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Film Movement presents
Marion Bridge (2002)

Louise: What you're doing is coming here and causing a big ruckus, getting everbody all upset, and then you're just going to take off.
Agnes: That is not what I'm doing!
Louise: It's what you've always done before.

- Molly Parker, Stacy Smith

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: May 13, 2003

Stars: Molly Parker, Stacy Smith, Rebecca Jenkins, Marguerite McNeil
Other Stars: Ellen Page, Hollis McLaren, Emmy Alcorn, Joseph Rutten, Nicola Lipman, Jackie Torrens, Kevin Curran, Ashley MacIsaac, Heather Rankin, Linda Busby, Jim Swansburg
Director: Wiebke von Carolsfeld

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, hard language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:13s
Release Date: April 01, 2003
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+A-A B

DVD Review

Film Movement, a new subscription-based distributor showcasing award-winning independent releases, brings a rich and rewarding Canadian motion picture to DVD with German born Wiebke von Carolsfeld's feature directorial debut, adapted from the stage play by Daniel MacIvor, one of Canada's premier playwrights. The winner for Best First Feature at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival where it made its world debut, Marion Bridge—its title inspired by the town made famous in Allister MacGillvray's popular maritime anthem, Out On The Mira—tells the story of three sisters who are reunited when the youngest returns home to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where their mother is dying of cancer.

Estranged from her family, and having lived in Toronto since her late teens, Agnes (Molly Parker), is a woman battling the demons in her life, recovering from her addictions, and with deep emotional scars from her childhood. In spite of her challenges, the return to her familiar Cape Breton surroundings finds her optimistic, and as has been her fashion, she stirs up the household when upon her arrival she suggests her terminally ill mother be brought home from the hospital to be cared for by her daughters. While her sisters concede, it is not without skepticism over Agnes' commitment to the task, as both the older Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins) and Louise (Stacy Smith) have their own issues to worry about, without the added responsibility their ailing mother will provide. The three women have to come to terms with each other and the eventualities ahead, while also reconciling a past that has affected them all in different ways.

Reading the synopsis or going strictly by its classification as a female drama, it would be easy to get the wrong impression of the tone of the film. Despite its somber premise and the serious nature of its themes, Marion Bridge is anything but a heavy melodrama. Instead, the emotional undercurrents are elevated with a sweet and darkly comic edge, with several hilarious moments born out of the true to life personalities being portrayed. This is due in large part to MacIvor's brilliant script, which captures the color and complexity of the multilayered relationships within both the family and community, playing on its quirkiness without going overboard. This subtle attention to detail rewards in all areas, allowing the viewer to immerse themselves in this family's world, as its secrets come to light. The result is a wonderful film, evenly balancing a thoughtful and poignant look at family life and values, with a wry playfulness in its execution.

The skillful character building begins in the opening scenes, quickly establishing the dynamic in the personalities of the three sisters. Each has a unique identity, and their own subplots throughout the story, from Theresa's estrangement from her husband to Louise's slothful existence in front of the TV and interest in Dory, a woman from their prayer circle. Agnes' own story is one that grows deeper as the film progresses, as its significance on the family begins to emerge. The clever plot creates its own deceptions, packing a further punch when the reality of the situation becomes clear. There is much to discover along the way.

The performances by the entire cast are excellent, revealing the emotional and psychological nature of their characters equally well with or without the spoken word. Parker, Smith and Jenkins truly embody their roles, with a sibling chemistry that is palpable. Their mother is aptly portrayed by Marguerite McNeil, and Ellen Page does a great job in her feature debut as the young girl who becomes a center of attention. The ancillary players add to the color, and include appearances by Kevin Curran (New Waterford Girl and the voice of Buck the dog on Married... with Children), plus Celtic music stars Ashley MacIsaac and Heather Rankin. Carolsfeld's direction is flawless, artfully weaving the stories of these different lives into a coherent tapestry, which Stefan Ivanov's cinematography compliments perfectly. The atmosphere is enlivened with some great musical cues, which are juxtaposed against the magnificent vistas of the Cape Breton landscape. In the end, Marion Bridge is an uplifting tale of reconciliation and forgiveness, and the importance of family. It is a film that will have a hard time being displaced from my top picks of 2003.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Marion Bridge is presented at its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 displays. Colors are rich and well saturated, and black levels are solid. Detail level is excellent, with no moire or other anomalies in small patterns, and the look very filmlike, with a natural fine grain structure. There is some aliasing and a few minor compression issues in backgrounds of select scenes, none of which will be evident on smaller display devices. Overall this is a great looking transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The English surround audio track is very well done, with good dynamic range, and an expansive soundfield. Directionality is appropriate and effective, giving the image plenty of space in the wings, while remaining naturalistic. Dialogue is for the most part easy to discern, however repeated viewings may be necessary to pick up all the subtleties. Leslie Barber's superb musical soundtrack fits in perfectly, and greatly enhances the picture.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Light of My Eyes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Wiebke von Carolsfeld, actress Molly Parker
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Short film Better or Worse?
Extras Review: A nice collection of extras are provided, starting with a feature-length commentary track by director Weibke von Carolsfeld and actress Molly Parker. Their dialogue is almost whispered at times, as they discuss the characters and scenes, noting locations and some of the challenges faced on the shoot. While not the most engaging track I've ever heard, it does provide a good deal of background, and is an interesting listen.

Biographies for the principle cast and director are included, along with a seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

Each Film Movement release contains a short film, with this month's being Jocelyn Cammack's Better or Worse?, a somewhat bizarre piece and darkly humorous in which a young girl tries to find a way to cope with her inadequate eyesight.

A preview of May's feature, Giuseppe Picconi's Light of My Eyes is provided, as is a brief mission statement about Film Movement, and a link to the company website.

The printed insert features brief essays on why the film was selected, some of the critical acclaim the film has been awarded, plus introductions to the other features included on the disc.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

For the past couple of years I have managed to discover a gem from a Canadian filmmaker, and Marion Bridge gets the nod this time out. A wonderfully developed film that was completely satisfying, Weibke von Carolsfeld has created a masterpiece in this brilliantly funny and touching character study. With the quality of film, presentation, and its adorment of extras, if this what one can expect from Film Movement they have a new fan. My only regret is that their subscription service is not yet available outside the U.S. Very highly recommended!

 


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