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Toronto Stories (2008)

by on 2013/07/15

Toronto Stories (2008)

“I’m sorry it’s so cold in here.”

* * *

If this feature-length anthology was all I had to judge by, I might well find I hated Toronto too. I’d certainly find it immensely disappointing.

Rarely is my home town featured through a cinematic eye, at least one which shows it acting as itself, and not somewhere else, like Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, or wherever. And even when it stands on its own, it’s not always in a positive light.

In the case of Toronto Stories, we’re shown an introductory sequence, then four short stories set in and around Ontario’s capital.

The results are predictably mixed.

The first, entitled “Shoelaces”, follows two tweens as they search for a monster. The second, “The Brazilian”, chronicles a quirky hipster relationship. The third, “Windows”, has a parolee trying to keep a fellow ex-convict in line. The final episode, “Lost Boys” is easily the standout of the quartet, tying most strongly into the introduction. A non-English-speaking boy, lost at the Pearson International Airport, is abducted, then pursued by a vagrant whose eccentricities make him an unreliable witness.

Actually, the true standout for me was seeing Mark Dailey again. The late local legend appears briefly in a cameo role. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to say “CITY-TV, everywhere!”

It’s possible the four filmmakers who collaborated on this project knew very well the city itself was an anonymous backdrop; any generic urban centre could have been swapped in, basically. Thus, a thread is woven through the various major plots, of the missing child showing up here and there, or news reports alluding to him. Unfortunately, the child himself does almost nothing and says even less. His enigmatic behaviour is not necessarily compelling.

In fact, if I were pressed to suggest a more unifying thread, I’d cite a certain sense of desperation. Appropriate? Perhaps, but it’s not how I personally view Toronto. And if I’m not the audience for this film, I’d suggest there are few other likely candidates.

It’s as patchy as “four short stories” suggests, a weird mix running the gamut from childishness to full frontal nudity, from studied quirk to toothless violence.

Within the segments themselves, there are aspects to appreciate: the composition of certain shots, stop motion animation, and a moody score which made me long for a soundtrack album. (I couldn’t find one.) Then again, there were just as many production bits I disliked: the yellow tinting, the inter-titles, and the clash of styles masquerading as “variety”.

Seriously, how does the little boy join the stories in a meaningful way? Shoehorned glimpses do not a motif make. And how does Toronto itself merit being mentioned in the title at all? What of significance do the pieces share which makes them uniquely Torontonian? A formerly-tallest-tower in the background?

All in all, Toronto Stories left me with that Five Senses disappointment: the trouble with a bit of something for everyone is it leaves far too much for no one.

* * *

Rated 14A

88 minutes

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  1. A Geek’s Month in Review: July 2013 | Geek vs Goth

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