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Shan MacDonald stars in Murmur.Krista Comeau/Supplied

  • Murmur
  • Written and directed by Heather Young
  • Starring Shan MacDonald
  • Classification PG; 84 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

It shouldn’t be this difficult to write a short review of Murmur, the feature debut of Nova Scotia writer-director-editor Heather Young. The micro-budget film’s plot is dead simple: In Halifax, the sixtysomething alcoholic Donna (Shan MacDonald) gets a job at an animal shelter after being convicted of drunk driving. Estranged from her daughter and otherwise socially isolated (before such a thing was government mandated), Donna begins to bring the shelter’s many sickly residents home, one at a time, until the situation becomes untenable for human and animal alike. That’s it – that’s the story.

But by fusing the language of a documentary with the technique of a deeply felt narrative, Young creates a world rich in vulnerability and empathy. It is such a fully realized and deliberately unnerving atmosphere that it is challenging to convey in a little write-up such as this.

It is not as if Murmur was wanting for challenges, either. After enjoying a premiere at TIFF this past fall, the film was set for a limited art-house release this spring at such theatres as the Lightbox in Toronto and Vancouver’s the Cinematheque – a handsome feat for such a small Canadian production. But then the world came crashing down, and now Murmur is being offered as part of the Cinematheque’s innovative new virtual screening series: purchase a ticket for $7.99, and you get to digitally view the film over the course of three days, with half of the earnings going directly to the Vancouver indie cinema.

It is a simple solution for a complicated, confusing time – similar to how Young’s story is a simple one, but told with deep and complicated reservoirs of emotion and style. Just wait until the filmmaker has more than $250,000 to work with.

Murmur is available to digitally rent via from April 17-23

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