TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Black Conflux’

TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Black Conflux’

It takes roughly an hour or so for Nicole Dorsey’s Black Conflux, her first feature, to begin to pay off its long set-up. The noticeable turning point is a dance sequence set to Gowan’s “Moonlight Desires” (you can see the Canadiana from space), where the swirling camera breathlessly sweeps the viewer off their feet. It is in this moment that the raw talent becomes evident in this first feature, even if the ultimate endpoint does not completely fulfill its potential.

Black Conflux’s most compelling feature is its story structure, artfully alluded to in the form of a metaphor. The film frequently features overhead shots of a geographical confluence, suggesting that the two parallel story streams will eventually meet. In one, Jackie Dunphy (Ella Ballentine) is your stereotypical small-town youth, a young woman caught between growing up and worrying that she’s growing up to become just like her alcoholic guardian (Rayisa Kondracki). In the other, Dennis Smarten (Ryan McDonald) is a quiet and introverted small-town young man, whose toxic inner masculinity threatens to spill out into his everyday actions. These two stories run alongside each other, and the clock ticks downward to their eventual convergence.

Aside from the structure, the other noticeable strength of Dorsey’s debut is McDonald’s performance, where he provides a sort of “Newfie Matt Dillion” vibe that is genuinely goose pimple inducing. The one glaring misstep is the instance upon random extreme close-ups, however, this is ultimately a solid first feature from a talent to watch.

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Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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