Travis Kunnuk (left) and Lukasi Forrest fish for truths in Uvanga.
UVANGA (Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Madeline Ivalu). 86 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (June 20). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Uvanga represents a step forward for co-directors Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu. It's a drama about the culture shock experienced by a teenage boy (Lukasi Forrest) when his Quebecois mother (Marianne Farley) brings him back to his father's village in Igloolik to meet his extended Inuk family.
There's nothing here as cinematically clumsy as the wolf attack in their earlier collaboration, Before Tomorrow, and the co-directors' occasional artistic flourishes are more confident this time around.
More importantly, Uvanga has a fully fleshed out narrative rather than the skeletal string of incidents that made up their previous picture. Its characters have complex relationships and long-buried resentments that come boiling to the surface as soon as Tomas and Anna step off the plane. (Anna, too, has her reasons for coming back at this particular moment.)
The story points get a little soapy as Uvanga comes into focus, but Cousineau and Ivalu (who appears in the film as Tomas's grandmother) don't push it into melodrama. This is a film of small epiphanies rather than big sweeping emotions. And by trusting its actors to deliver them, Uvanga delivers a modest, genuine glimpse of life.