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Hannah Gross in Unless.
Hannah Gross in Unless.

Unless: Faithful adaption of Carol Shields novel falls flat on screen Add to ...

  • Directed by Alan Gilsenan
  • Written by Alan Gilsenan, based on a novel by Carol Shields
  • Starring Catherine Keener, Hannah Gross, Matt Craven
  • Classification 14A
  • Genre drama
  • Year 2016
  • Country Canada/Ireland
  • Language English

What would you do if your child refused to come home? What if they preferred, instead, to live on the streets?

In this faithful adaptation of Carol Shields’s final novel, a Toronto couple (Catherine Keener and Matt Craven) learns that their university-aged daughter, Norah, has removed herself from the world, choosing to spend her days on the sidewalk outside Honest Ed’s, holding a sign that says “Goodness.” She won’t talk. She sleeps in a nearby shelter at night.

There are strange marks on her wrists. What worked in Shields’s quiet, contemplative novel about a family in crisis falls flat on screen. The movie is betrayed by faux-poetic voiceovers and an ending that aims for profoundness but comes across as pretentious. (It was fine in the book, mind you.) The film asks thoughtful, important questions – how do we face a world that is often so ugly? – but so does the novel; find a used copy of that, instead. (14A)

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