Chilly Canadian Noir

Robert Moyes reviews Victoria Film Festival screening of Cardinals

By Robert Moyes

As long as you’re prepared to be left in the dark for awhile, Cardinals is an interesting, low-key thriller anchored with a great performance by celebrated Canadian actor Sheila McCarthy (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Orphan Black). McCarthy stars as Valerie Walker, who has just gotten out of prison after serving a long sentence for vehicular manslaughter while drunk – late at night she’d killed a neighbour who lived just across the street. We meet her two daughters, Zoe and Eleanor, when they pick Valerie up at prison and drive her back to her home in the suburbs.

Valerie looks washed out from her years of incarceration, but seems stoically prepared to begin reclaiming her life. The next morning there’s a knock at the door and Valerie answers it to discover Mark, the son of the man she killed. She invites him to sit at the breakfast table with her two daughters, and the resulting conversation is stilted and ambiguous. “Thank you for forgiving me,” blurts Valerie at one point, even though it’s obvious the superficially polite Mark is seething with quiet anger and has offered no such absolution. As it turns out, Mark isn’t seeking closure so much as he is conducting his own investigation into what happened.

As the nature of the accident is called into question, tension slowly mounts and a secret between Valerie and the eldest daughter are hinted at. Later, there’s a very awkward meeting between Valerie and a friend and workmate from the plant where they both worked. Eventually, tension leads to menace, and the story climaxes with a dramatic but not entirely satisfying confrontation – albeit one made remarkable thanks to the riveting presence of McCarthy.

Cardinals is the feature-length debut of directors Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley, who have previously worked on short films. They have gotten decent performances out of everyone, and have cultivated intriguing psychological undercurrents. The film benefits from some deadpan humour courtesy of Valerie’s eccentric parole officer. And despite an obvious low budget, they used the wintry Ontario setting to effectively establish a subtly noirish mood. That said, the story is on the slight side, and the timing and manner in which the film’s secrets emerge seems awkward.

Rating: ***

Showing Sun., 9 pm, Feb. 11 at SilverCity

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Baroque Festival highlights a new direction in early classical music

Festival focus on the Galant style will feature lesser-known pieces from the 1700s

Bachman/Cummings show part of a rockin’ summer in Victoria

Fans of classic rock can experience reunion concert July 6 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Join a cross-cultural celebration at One World 2020

Pearson College UWC students present a slice of their cultures in dance, song and more, March 20-21

FILM REVIEW: Portrait of a love that burns

Film Fest hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire is directed with a poet’s soul, a painter’s eye: Moyes

REVIEW: Victoria audience experiences ‘The Four Seasons’ at its best

Germany-based Concerto Köln musicians light up the stage at Alix Goolden Hall

Michelle Obama: In Conversation in Victoria, March 31

Former First Lady hosted by Victoria Chamber for moderated event at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

MacIsaac/Bachand musical partnership a decade in

Legendary Cape Breton fiddler and talented multi-instrumentalist to play two sold-out shows in March

Comedian Herb Dixon going Full Throttle in Greater Victoria

Comic gearing up for shows in Oak Bay and at Elements Casino next week

ALLAN REID: Chicken bonanza, Korean style

Simple Victoria restaurant knows how to please if your go-tos are chicken and fries

Most Read