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Sheila McCarthy in Cardinals (2017). Credit: D Films.

D Films

  • Cardinals
  • Written by: Grayson Moore
  • Directed by: Grayson Moore, Aidan Shipley
  • Starring: Sheila McCarthy, Katie Boland, Noah Reid, Peter MacNeill, Peter Spence
  • Classification: 14A/ 84 minutes


There’s a great exchange in Cardinals, a super-taut drama about a mother released from prison after serving a sentence for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. When a parole officer asks her what she thinks her greatest threat to freedom is, her reply is steely and straight-faced: “Well, I guess I would have to say ‘you,’ wouldn’t I?” She’s a tough cookie, played by the veteran Canadian actress Sheila McCarthy, stellar in the role. Not much comes out of her mouth, but she says tons with tone.

The micro-budget film itself, about a mother protecting her family, is minimalist and uniquely structured, with the close-to-the-vest story coming together incrementally as details about the past are revealed by hint and by clue. The son of the deceased is suspicious about the accident; a weird, awkward dance ensues as the characters try to hide their various rages and secrets.

A teetering pretense of decorum is maintained as the truth is circled in on. Not everything works here – the characters’ behavior and reactions don’t always ring true – but Cardinals mostly succeeds as an efficient, tight-lipped film that does a lot with a little.