Increasingly perplexing are the motivations behind utilizing Super 16 to capture the angst and wherewithal of youth. It’s not that one should fully comprehend the reasons behind so many filmmakers’ desire for this aesthetic, but rather that one sees their films ultimately failing to rationalize this material choice. It’s worth mentioning, of course, that the majority of these works impressed on film very clearly blow up the detail of the stock to accentuate the chemical malleability of the medium. These sumptuous textures and their faculties, however, rarely ever manifest themselves beyond light aestheticism. One often considers whether the images could speak for themselves had the work been captured digitally, or if it’s all in the aggrandizing of grain where the entire film lives and dies. Graham Foy’s The Maiden leaves me on the fence, for where there are glimpses of evocation in the tactility of night, there are just as many redundancies in the vague aura of day.
Perhaps before going forward, we should stop to discuss the narrative and its position within the film’s Canadian context. Foy situates at his center what’s arguably a periphery, through which he crystallizes the disaffection of youth in more palatable, more muted emotion. Grief, in two distinct forms, runs through our bifurcated plot: one brought on through the loss of a friend and another through the loss of friendship. Foy fills the minutes with languish, with the mundanity of impenetrable contemplation. His protagonists are ciphers lost in the shrill noises of passing trains. They wander into and out of one another’s lives, set to the dispassionate march of time. With such unplotted narrativity, a rare occurrence amongst this new wave of Canadian fiction filmmakers, Foy still can’t quite divorce himself and his characters from the suffocating construct of linearity. While he tries to trouble the diegetic timeline with temporal disruptions motivated via the metaphysical power of certain key props, he, unfortunately, remains under the normative pressures of a narrative drive, rendering a tale that vacillates between classical and modernist sensibilities. The indecision is ultimately frustrating.
One can applaud the utility of stagnancy that envelops the entirety of the work, from its incisive lack of momentum to the handheld close-ups that linger endlessly over the dejection of characters. But there lacks a formal intervention that would endow these characters with thematic significance beyond their immediate anonymity. While this is ultimately an idiosyncratic contemplation of emotionality wrought by the inaccessible flows of maturation, it remains a derivative of Canadian film tropes. That is to say, I’m very much looking forward to the often overzealous jump of a sophomore feature, as it appears that Foy does manage a strict control of his environs — a much-needed attribute out there in the micro-budget Canadian landscape.
Published as part of TIFF 2022 — Dispatch 4.