VIFF 2017: Fail to Appear goes normcore with Toronto social worker drama


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      Filmmaker Antoine Bourges gutted us at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in 2013 with his stark hybrid-fictional “East Hastings Pharmacy”.

      This debut feature is only marginally more ostentatious, which is to say not at all, with the reigning queen of actorly austerity Deragh Campbell taking the film’s lead as a rookie social worker in Toronto, handling the most minor of thieves in the shape of a withdrawn musician. More normcore than mumblecore (numblecore?), Bourges’s film is defiantly, pathologically plain, emptying the frame of all extraneous information and finding a properly bleak visual analogue for the flawed institutional gestalt it depicts. It is also—depending on your disposition—covertly hilarious, as when an attempt at basic human connection ends with one of its two main characters bolting from an excruciating conversation. Behold transcendental cinema, 2017.