what the title of Graham Foy‘s “The Maiden” mean? The film’s first title card reveals that it is a graffiti tag for Kyle (Justin Shutter) and Colton (Marcel T. Jiminez), two friends in 1990s Calgary who stain their hometown with marker. Wherever they go, so does their signature, a sign of their presence at the school, the half-built houses they roam, or the ravine they like to hang out in, with train tracks above. But towards the end of Foy’s debut, when the tag also signifies an absence and perhaps the presence of something else, it’s clear that he wants that tag, and in turn the title of his film, to resonate with meaning for the film. public. For Foy, this graffiti is not a marker but a potent symbol, something that activates multiple levels of importance for him and his film.
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And in Foy’s case, that makes a lot of sense. Foy grew up in Calgary and filmed the film at the location where he is assumed to have gone to school, skateboarded, smashed abandoned TV sets and caught crayfish from the ravine stream like Kyle and Colton do on screen. These environments are important to Foy; this is obvious. They inspire memories essential to him and glow with a poetics of place that recalls Wordsworth’s romantic dictum of emotion gathered in tranquility. Or, alternatively, how, for Proust, places, people and objects change and deepen in meaning as time inevitably passes and memories linger and distort, adding new layers of meaning in the process.
But do these places and the film’s story shine like that for audiences? The answer, unfortunately, is no. The problem with “The Maiden” is that for these deeply personal poetics to translate well to the viewer, Foy needs to craft a confident and competent narrative composition, with the impressions he works with becoming, if not universal, at least relatable. with the universe. people watching. He doesn’t do that here, despite a valiant effort. And while this critic has fond memories as a teenager of roaming hometown haunts that include riverbeds and the foundations of houses with friends, his screen depiction, while ambitious, fails to evoke the tragic idyll or the magic immanent in everyday life that Foy want. “The Maiden” keeps looking for this magic throughout its runtime, but fails to capture it.
But it’s not for lack of trying, as the premise of “The Maiden” has many emotional points hidden in its low-key atmosphere. Colton and Kyle are young and aimless, living in blissful ignorance of adulthood and its responsibilities until an unforeseen tragedy strikes. Colton’s subsequent grief and guilt alienates him from his classmates, but sets him up for unexpected growth. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with Tucker, an arrogant bully in a Stetson hat, and gains a more compassionate perception of his peers and surroundings. But after Colton stumbles upon a colleague’s missing diary at the site where the tragedy first occurred, his newfound sensitivity takes him somewhere else entirely.
Foy deserves credit for several of his stylistic choices in “The Maiden.” The film’s faded 16mm visuals and Bressonian use of local area non-actors give the ’90s a touch of realism. What Sluiter and Jiminez lack as actors, they make up for on screen as obviously being real-life friends. The familiarity between them and the sprawl of Calgary’s suburbs and prairies also saves Foy’s limitations as a director, which stem primarily from the narrative itself. The story setting is simple but draws a lot from your ancestors, Gus Van Santin “paranoid park” in particular. Colton’s arc may also be a facsimile of Alex, Van Sant’s protagonist in “Park.” And given that Van Sant adapted Blake NelsonIn the 2006 novel of the same name to his film, there’s a distinct sense here that Colton’s arc is more of a shallow archetype than a fully embodied character.
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So it’s a welcome choice on Foy’s part when “The Maiden” switches to Whitney (Hayley Ness) in its final third. As Colton navigates life without Kyle, Whitney also goes through an emotional crisis that leads her to run away from her friend June.Sienna Yee) seeking solace in the ravine. What happens out there for Whitney, and Colton after he discovers her diary, requires a considerable leap of faith from the public. But if viewers ignore Foy’s fragile shift from the mundane to the miraculous, his choices ring true. The ravine becomes not only a local haunt, but also a haunted place for all three characters. It transforms that place, and the film, into an imaginary zone that allows the impossible and the emotionally necessary to manifest for them through beauty and art.
However, if a viewer can’t make that leap into the subtle (and possibly supernatural) realms of the aesthetic with Foy, the last act of “The Maiden” can feel like a messy mess. And even if you do, it’s hard to say whether the jump is worth the effort. Foy scatters symbols throughout the film that he wants to shine with the invisible order of art, but his brilliance shines more like fool’s gold. He sees these emblems as conduits, bridges between one world and another of art, much as the ravine and its train tracks are for Kyle and Whitney. However, after the sudden shift to Whitney’s story, Colton’s aimless flashing of a flashlight doesn’t take on secondary significance as a morse code communication with his lost friend. Whitney’s diary and tape recorder work well in this regard, but they are already mediums in the first place. And as for the black cat, its resurrection suggests rituals and ceremonies as gateways to the mystery, and that death is not the end, but hardly convincingly so.
So that leaves Kyle and Colton’s graffiti tag, the titular base of the movie. While the tag, like Calgary, obviously means a lot to Foy, “The Maiden” often comes across less as a narrative film than a personal statement. Ambitions aside, the film often appears as Graham Foy’s insular memorial to the places and memories that made him. While it’s hard to blame a filmmaker for exposing himself like this at a feature film premiere, it makes for an often frustrating viewing experience, especially when the runtime reaches nearly two hours. Make no mistake, where Foy intends to go in “The Maiden” is very real; it’s just that, despite its best efforts, the film doesn’t open up to that other side. Sometimes, despite good intentions, the message doesn’t arrive, no matter how many times you flash the flashlight or mark the bridge. [C-]
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