World War II is well underway in Europe. The day he is put on a train to go fight in London, Adam (Phillip Lewitski) marries Aline (Grace Dove) moments before they are separated. Aline goes back to work as a Morse code operator. After graduating from the academy, she is sent over to Europe to be part of a task force in which military codes will be translated into the Cree language and back into English again in order to prevent the enemy from cracking the code.
Meanwhile, Perseverance Spears (Alyssa Wapanatâhk) is not so lucky. Suffering from the same abuse as her sister, she embarks on a different path that leads to her incarceration and the loss of her children. Through the 60’s Aline does her best to raise her children and to provide them with a life that was better than her own. Making sure that the trauma and abuse that she suffered as a child doesn’t get passed down to the generations that follow.
From the 1820’s through the 1990’s, Canada had, what was probably well intended at the time, a system in place in which Indigenous children were taken to a boarding school run by Canadian officials in order to basically make them more Canadian and less Native. These schools were a breeding ground for abuse and torture under the guise of religious indoctrination. Only in the past 20 years the Canadian government has made efforts to apologize for this system of abuse while unmarked graves of dead children are still being discovered to this very day.
Writer/Director Marie Clements takes an unflinching look at the systematic abuse, neglect, and racism that has plagued native culture for centuries and how that stays with a person long after. How so called ‘men of god’ could psychologically and physically abuse children in an attempt to make them ‘more civilized’ has long lasting affects that can have serious problems down the line. While the story structure is a bit disjointed and bounces around a lot, the film as a whole is a beautiful story about how trauma never really goes away but how over time people can learn to overcome and make sure not to pass it on to the next generation.
I look forward to the CBC follow up series that is set to premiere in 2023.
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), September 10, 2022. Running time: 124 min.
PRODUCTION: An Elevation Pictures release of a Ayasew Ooskana Pictures, Marie Clements Media, Grana Productions & Screen Siren Pictures production. Producers: Marie Clements, Trish Dolman & Christine Haebler. Executive producers: Aaron L. Gilbert, Sam Grana, Kyle Irving, Lisa Meeches, Noah Segal & Steven Thibault.
CREW: Director/writer: Marie Clement. Cinematography: Vince Arvidson. Editing: Maxime Lahaie. Music: Wayne Lavallee & Jesse Zubot.
CAST: Grace Dove, Phillip Lewitski, Rémy Girard, Karine Vanasse, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Michelle Thrush, Glen Gould, Gail Maurice, Carla-Rae & Cara Gee.