TIFF22 review: Marie Clements’ ‘BONES OF CROWS’ is an exquisite cinematic experience of trauma and hope.

BONES OF CROWS

Centuries of trauma reveal themselves on the big screen in the TIFF22 feature film BONES OF CROWS by writer-director Marie ClementsIt’s a visceral but undeniably important watch. The film occurs over the span of 100 years. Watching the Catholic church, aided by the government, nonchalantly discussing the planned eradication of the poor is infuriating. Indigenous children were ripped from the arms of their parents, under threat of incarceration, and placed in residential homes run by severe priests and nuns. Children were stripped of their culture and used as lab rats. The number of children buried in unmarked graves is unfathomable. 

In the film, we bounce in time as unresolved trauma and abuse rear their ugly head through decades. Actress Grace Dove plays Aline Spears beginning at age 16. Once a promising concert pianist, her hopes and dreams were dashed by physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Her memories, accompanied by those of one of her siblings and husband, intertwine to paint a harrowing picture of torture and fear. But, the pain inflicted upon her never extinguishes her soul. As she endures continued racism, Aline has the last word through a chance visit to the Vatican and the legacy of her children. 

While BONES OF CROWS predominantly follows the fallout of one family, their story is tragically universal. Dove carries the weight of the film on her shoulders, reminding the audience of the strength of the Canadian native population. Her unrelenting and raw bravery lets the audience reside in her psyche with a quiet discomfort needed for BONES OF CROWS to succeed as it does.

The beauty and triumph of BONES OF CROWS occur in unexpected moments. The appearance of the titular birds becomes a recurring theme of hope. You cannot ignore the striking cinematography. The film’s finale is a much-needed emotional catharsis. When you hear and feel the song “You Are My Bones,’ co-written by Marie Clements, you won’t be able to hold back any longer. Bones of Crows is a soul-changing film. It’s simply exquisite storytelling. TIFF22 audiences are privileged to experience this first. BONES OF CROWS is a jaw-dropping cinematic experience. 


An epic account of the life of Cree matriarch Aline Spears that spans generations, Marie Clements’ Bones of Crows is a powerful indictment of the abuse of Indigenous peoples as well as a stirring story of resilience and resistance.

This programme contains scenes that may distress some viewers, especially those who have experienced harm, abuse, violence, and/or intergenerational trauma due to colonial practices.

Support is available 24 hours a day for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and for those who may be triggered by content dealing with residential schools, child abuse, emotional trauma, and racism. The national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.


Canada, 2022
English, Cree, ʔayʔajuθəm, Italian
WORLD PREMIERE
127 minutes
Director
Marie Clements
Cast
Grace Dove, Phillip Forest Lewitski, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Michelle Thrush, Glen Gould, Gail Maurice, Carla Rae, Cara Gee, Rémy Girard, Karine Vanasse, Jonathon Whitesell, Patrick Garrow, Summer Testawich, Sierra McRae, Tanaya Beatty, Joshua Odjick, Alanis Obomsawin


About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.