VIFF review: West Coast–based Monkey Beach brings Eden Robinson's Indigenous mystery novel to the screen

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      Monkey Beach (Canada) 105 min. In English and Haisla, with English subtitles. Streaming online at the 2020 Vancouver International Film Festival from September 24 to October 7 at VIFF Connect

      The world premiere of writer-director Loretta Sarah Todd’s patient and meandering interpretation of Haisla-Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson’s 2000 novel of the same name kicks off this year's Vancouver International Film Festival—and appropriately so. 

      In this supernatural mystery set on the West Coast, Todd conveys a deep understanding of family and community dynamics and an integral sense of place.

      A conflicted Lisa (Grace Dove, whose magnetic presence and generous smile illuminates the screen) returns from Vancouver to her Haisla family in Kitamaat Village to heed the haunting premonitions that she has long fled from. But she has to face her fears if she is to save her brother (Joel Oulette).

      Although the overall effort may be uneven at times and takes some time to find its way, there’s enough to appreciate here to carry things along, including a scene-stealing Adam Beach as the mischievous Uncle Mick, Lisa’s struggle to reconcile traditional values with the current world, and—needless to say—the evocative setting that pervades the proceedings.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.