TIFF review: Murmur

East Coast writer/director Heather Young's first feature is quietly devastating


MURMUR DISC D: Heather Young. Canada. 84 min. Sep 6, 8:45 pm, AGO Sep 7, 3 pm, Scotiabank 8 Sep 15, 3:30 pm, Scotiabank 8. Rating: NNNN


The quietly shattering first feature from East Coast writer/director Young is a character study of an older woman named Donna (Shan MacDonald) spiraling into self-destructive behaviour when she’s given a job at an animal shelter as part of a probationary agreement for an unspecified alcohol-related offence.

Donna bonds with a sickly older dog and decides to bring him home… but one pet isn’t enough.

If you’ve ever had to deal with a sick pet, Murmur will be a rough watch. The film is unflinching in its depiction of animal medicine, weaving footage of actual veterinary surgery into its fictional material – and MacDonald, a non-professional actor making a devastating debut, lets us feel every moment of Donna’s empathy for the creatures in her care.

In sharp, spare images and a handful of one-sided conversations, Young shows us the despair her protagonist carries but can’t articulate to anyone who might be able to help. 

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