Shelly Niro’s new film is The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw. And both the Reelworld and imaginative Film Festivals selected it. It is about the titular hat maker (Morningstar Angeline) who returns home to her dysfunctional family. This would make for a typical Canadian cabin comedy. However, Mizti’s Indigenous heritage gives that return a more political significance. Another twist to these proceedings is its genre bending. There are intermittent scenes where Mitzi experiences the spirit world. It’s world that the film expresses through magic realism and futurism, which are always inherently welcome. Love the smooth transitions between those worlds.
There’s something autobiographical about Niro’s film, except, obviously, the fantasy sequences. The film sells itself as a comedy. This is strange for a movie about people who get sick in the way they do here. Rehearsals could have also helped the actors out. These actors act competently in some scenes. They, with Niro, make interesting choices. Mitzi looks perpetually tired. And sure, anyone who drops a budding career in fashion and caring for two of her relatives will look tired. But this is a movie, I repeat, about sick people, yet the performances gave that subject little impact.
The film also depicts a war of sorts between the Bearclaws and the Muskrats. This latter family doesn’t welcome Mitzi’s return. It lays some groundwork by hinting at family histories. That said, it’s not easy to sympathize with her when she’s stealing Simone Muskrat’s (Roseanne Supernault) boyfriend. The ultimate confrontation between the families takes place during a play rehearsal. Here, the Muskrats act like 80s villains, beating up on Mitzi’s writer cousin. There are cartoon villains with more nuance that the ones in this film. More of a photographer than a director, Niro really needed to work on the storytelling here.
For more info on The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw go to https://www.reelworld.ca/openingnightfilm.