Melanie McLaren visits Tkaronto the good.
TKARONTO (Shane Belcourt). 105 minutes. Opens Friday (August 15). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Ray (Duane Murray) is a disgruntled half-Metis Vancouver writer who looks and feels plain white. He cringes when yuppies claim native heritage just because they had some ancient Cherokee grandma, while he barely feels justified in doing so with a Metis father.
Ray meets Jolene (Melanie McLaren), an L.A.-based Anishnabe painter who shares his disconnect. They meet cute for two days in Tkaronto (Mohawk for Toronto), writer/director Shane Belcourt's charming and impressive debut that recalls Linklater's Before Sunrise but with an (Ab)original twist.
Belcourt has mentioned in interviews how much of his own life is projected on the budding romance, and the film benefits from such honesty. The small moments between the two are full of chatter that may seem mundane but is actually familiar, delicate and revelatory.
While Ray and Jolene come to terms with themselves and each other, Belcourt cleverly engages with Toronto, a city so saturated with claims to cultural diversity that individual identity gets lost in the frenzy.
Tkaronto is not immune to the missteps of a first indie feature. Belcourt's playful tinkering with jump cuts, rack focus and an insistent score are at times distracting. But these are minor flaws considering the shoestring budget of $25,000 and only a handful of names to acknowledge.
All the more credit to Belcourt, then, for a film that feels at once so deeply personal and so universal.