Starring Violet Nelson. Rated PG
It takes some time to adapt to the real-time rhythms of this Vancouver-set drama, which centres on a chance encounter between women of overlapping backgrounds but very different life trajectories.
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, who cowrote and codirected this with Kathleen Hepburn (Never Steady, Never Still), plays Áila, a well-educated East Side woman who—like Tailfeathers—is of mixed Blackfoot and Sámi background. (This explains why Norway helped produce the film.) Áila has just been to see a gynecologist regarding contraception when she bumps into another Indigenous woman on the street. Rosie (newcomer Violet Nelson) is barefoot, bedraggled, pregnant, and shivering in the rain. What to do next?
The movie takes place over the course of a single afternoon, with the few events focusing on a long conversation across the class divide—first in the elegant Áila’s pleasant, middle-class apartment, later in taxis and a halfway house Rosie reluctantly agrees to visit. Rosie, running from an abusive environment, comes across as someone who’s never had a decent break, and is therefore wary of receiving help from strangers—especially those who might be ambivalent about their own motivations.
None of this is dramatized in the usual sense. The filmmakers make unusual choices, such as letting trips to the bathroom or wherever take as long as they need, and having cinematographer Norm Li’s camera rest on one participant instead of having both people in the shot. This creates a subjectivity that pulls you in, even if the action isn’t always what you’d call exciting. There’s no music on the soundtrack, save what’s found inside the frame. And that makes it even more emotional when Rosie plays a track off Joni Mitchell’s Blue LP, and places the headphones on her belly—aching beauty for a future generation to hear and feel.
Moments like that make you realize how much of everyday life escapes our perpetually recording eyes. In keeping with the subtle provocation of the title (taken from First Nations poet Billy-Ray Belcourt), it offers a daring kind of storytelling—one that asks us to notice what, and who, we’ve been taught to ignore.