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Film This Movie Is Broken: A little romance and a lot of music in a not-really-broken movie

Greg Calderone (Bruno) and Kerr Hewitt (Blake) in This Movie is Broken.

3 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

This Movie Is Broken

  • Directed by Bruce McDonald
  • Written by Don McKellar
  • Starring Greg Calderone, Georgina Reilly and the members of Broken Social Scene
  • Classification: 14A

As the G20 summit turns downtown Toronto into a prison yard this week, you can find some respite in a more amiable version of the city's downtown in Bruce McDonald's This Movie Is Broken. The new film is a two-in-one - a breezy romantic drama set over the course of a day in the city, and a concert documentary shot at Harbourfront Centre with "Toronto's hometown band," Broken Social Scene.

The wisp of a story is based on an idea credited to McDonald ( Hardcore Logo, Pontypool), as well as Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and writer Don McKellar. We begin with the voiceover of Bruno (Greg Calderone), a soft-eyed, bearded romantic, who's narration is almost crowing to the sunrise after waking up, on his rooftop bed, next to the love of his life - Caroline (Georgina Reilly). Bruno tells us he has known Caroline since they were children. Later, when Caroline is absent, Bruno tells his best friend Blake (Kerr Hewitt) that the consummation is "bitter-sweet" because Caroline is heading back to Paris the next morning to return to school.

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Coming back to the table where Blake and Bruno are eating breakfast, Carol expresses her regret that "the BSS concert" on the island had been cancelled (for a moment I thought she meant Bishop Strachan School). But Blake has good news: The concert has been rescheduled at the last moment, at Harbourfront. In an effort to promote his friend, Blake tells her that Bruno can score tickets, even back-stage passes. As it turns out, the concert is free, though the backstage passes remain a worry.

Slipping back and forth between the romantic drama and the onstage evening concert, This Movie Is Broken has a moderately experimental, deliberately constructed feeling. Some sequences go by in a flutter of edits; in a couple of sequences, the screen turns to black-and-white. Throughout, Bruno and Caroline play out their new love affair in landmark Toronto locations: Kensington Market, the Exhibition grounds, Trinity Bellwoods Park and Christie Pits, piled high with green sacks of garbage.

The concert itself is more straight-forward - a passel of cameras capture the band, its transporting communal vibe, the multi-layered instrumental grooves and the incantory songs about I-don't-know-what. With the core six-member band augmented by friends and past members, including Leslie Feist, Jason Collett, Emily Haines of Metric and Amy Millan of Stars, there's practically a village onstage. (In a strange echo of the political summit, I counted 20 people performing the final encore.) McDonald's intense onstage surveillance yields some intimate moments - someone reaching up and adjusting the drummer's glasses for him, and Feist miming running while Kevin Drew repeats the phrase "I'll come running to you" from Carole King's You Got a Friend.

As for Caroline and Bruno, they keep doing things during the songs. They fight, and we have three intersecting stories now - Caroline's upset journey back home, Bruno and Blake's further adventures in concert land, and an eventual reunion. The drama floats by like a bubble of yearning and delight, and then ends with a slightly silly pop. Contrary to our expectations, this isn't really a version of Before Sunset set in the T.Dot. It's a Broken Social Scene movie, with a sweet tease of a story that pretends for a moment that Toronto and Paris could share an affair.

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