By: Addison Wylie
Porch Stories has a good eye and ear for the city; most notably Toronto, Ontario. After a parade disperses, the sidewalks are lined with kids hanging out with friends and families enjoying the nice weather. In the distance, we can almost make out whirring white noise of busy cars and streetlights.
Sarah Goodman’s film is black-and-white, and I’m unsure why she signed off on this artistic decision. On the one hand, she may have felt the greyscale hues make Porch Stories more accessible to any type of city folk. On the other hand, she misses out on an opportunity to use temperature to great effect – the same way Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing can make you swelter under its hot sun. As day turns to night, the outside glow would have complimented the coziness of a laid-back evening of rekindling with an old friend.
That’s at least what one of the stories is about in the film. Emma (played by Laura Barrett) is slogging through the final stages of preparing to move, when suddenly, ex-bandmate Gabriel (played by José Miguel Contreras) drops by for a surprise visit. Meanwhile, the nosy elderly couple across the street occasionally peek in (Uerania Silveira and Sergio Sarmento in some particularly amusing conversations), and a young next-door neighbour can’t help but struggle with puppy love.
When the couples stop talking and allow silence to slip in, other conversations fill the void. The chats may be meaningless to us and to the lead characters, but audiences always understand that they serve significance to those particular pedestrians. Those moments are incomplete and gone in a flash, yet they introduce another level of realism. Sarah Goodman has brilliantly captured this unthought of essence.
Otherwise, Porch Stories is an amateur effort; usually hampered by flaws that seem to follow filmmakers taking their first swing at a full-length feature. Outside the movie, Barrett and Contreras are Toronto musicians, and its easy to tell they would rather by on stage performing in front of a crowd than with each other in front of Goodman’s camera. When we see their eyes light up when given the chance to play soulful songs, its a dead giveaway.
Goodman’s dialogue also features dialogue that’s awkwardly worded; as if it sounds better on paper rather than someone actually verbalizing it. It also contributes to the film’s overall unnatural staccato delivery.
That airy realism that Goodman establishes during those fleeting moments of stillness is marvellous. So marvellous, in fact, that an alarm is triggered whenever a stilted performer steps out of line. Even so, Sarah Goodman has set a decent bar for her filmmaking career with Porch Stories.