Through Black Spruce, most of the time, is on the right track. Unfortunately, its disappointing streaks are during the final stretch of the film.
Director Don McKellar (The Grand Seduction) and screenwriter Barbara Samuels (TV’s North of 60) juggle two types of stories in Through Black Spruce – a mystery-thriller and a crime-drama. A Cree woman named Annie (Tanaya Beatty) travels to Toronto to find the whereabouts of her missing twin sister, while her uncle Will (Brandon Oakes) fends off local crooks who are suspicious of him. Sharing the same characteristics as a neo-noir, Annie and Will are independent characters who must stay strong to survive. Beatty and Oakes are a good team when paired with each other, but they do a tremendous job driving the story on their own. Audiences ought to agree with me but, considering some unfortunate decisions in the film, the jury is still out on the film’s actual wishy-washy narrative.
McKellar and Samuels eventually lose touch of their lead characters; making the uncle and daughter significantly less interesting by making them dependant on obviously untrustworthy people in the story. While this development happens over the course of passing time, Annie and Will’s behaviour shifts so drastically that they’re almost unidentifiable. These hollow qualities are glaring, and it doesn’t help matters that these choices lead the audience towards an anticlimactic and bland finale. The ending’s message does speak volumes about real-life unsympathetic investigations of missing Indigenous women, but McKellar’s execution doesn’t have much of an impact.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie
Very solid critique. A very honest interpretation. Thanks for all your contributions.