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film review
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An image from Fail to Appear.

  • Fail to Appear
  • Written and directed by Antoine Bourges
  • fStarring Deragh Campbell and Nathan Roder
  • Classification N/A
  • 70 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Fail to Appear is a quiet gem that draws the viewer in from its opening frames — a long, steady shot of office equipment in an aesthetically challenged basement. Using a mix of professional performers and non-actors, the debut feature from Canadian director Antoine Bourges is experimental filmmaking that is devoid of bells and whistles, but also wholly accessible and utterly watchable.

This shoestring-budget indie Canadian film about a rookie social worker and the system she must learn to navigate takes viewers on an insightful trip into a bleak, bureaucratic world with heart and humanity. Viewers will find it hard to shake.

The film starts off focusing on Isolde (Deragh Campbell) and then becomes about Eric (Nathan Roder). Isolde is a literature graduate and social-work trainee; she is the case worker for Eric, who is charged with theft and has an upcoming court appearance.

The performances by the non-actors, including Roder, are convincing — subtle yet assured. But it’s Campbell who is a naturalistic revelation as the neophyte case worker trying to find her feet in a world where too many people fall through the cracks.

Fail to Appear screens June 7 to 14 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto (

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