Issues: Our Review of ‘Scarborough (2021)’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 23, 2022
Issues: Our Review of ‘Scarborough (2021)’

Films give off a novelistic air when they sprawl and they have many characters, and Rich Williamson and Shasha Nakhai’s Scarborough is no exception. (Catherine Hernandez, by the way, wrote the novel that was the source material here and serves as the film’s screenwriter). The thing about novelistic films and their many characters is that they’re hard to write about. But I’ll start with one of this film’s characters, Ms. Hina Hassani (Aliya Kanani), who exchanges e-mails with her supervisor Jane Fulton about how to run her literacy centre in the titular Toronto borough. Her concern, mostly, is how to create a positive impact on the lives of the kids who attend her centre. This is difficult since those children have their own problems and the same goes for their parents.

One of those parents is Edna (Ellie Posadas). She’s a nail salon worker trying to raise her child Bing (Liam Diaz), who is starting to express his gender in different ways. Bing, fortunately, is making fast friends with two Indigenous kids from the centre. Those friends Johnny (Felix Jedi Ingram Isaac), who has autism, and Sylvie (Mekiya Fox), who is neuro typical. Raising them is Marie (Cherish Violet Blood), who juggles time to find the right care for Johnny. There are a few children outside of that circle, including Laura (Anna Claire Beitel). She splits time between her violent father Cory (Conor Casey) and a mother, Jessica (Kristen McCulloch), who has addiction issues.

I should probably read the book since books always have more nuances that films can’t always retain. That nuance is specifically necessary with Cory, who is the closest Scarborough gets to having a villain, sulking while the centre’s children and parents are having fun. Laura eventually reveals something to Ms. Hina that shows why Cory doesn’t participate in the centre’s activities. He’s less of a problem to me than the way the film writes Ms. Hina, who, despite her good intentions, still does things that teachers shouldn’t do.

The film second villain is Clara (Peyton Rhys-Wade), the centre’s token snooty middle class girl. But I kind of like her because she at least breaks the stereotype of Scarborough being uniformly low income. Other, more sympathetic characters like restauranteur Michelle (Crystal C. Rose) rounds up the cast and gives tough love to the other characters who need it. And they’re all subjects to the observations of the camera, which closes up on them. And I love my close-ups and colours that are the right nix of muted and vibrant. Moments of movement are also great, expressing the idea that one oblivious child is another adult’s annoyance. There’s a lot here that shows potential.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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