Tomas: Mom, how come we never came here before?
In 2008, filmmakers Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu won the award for Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF for their film BEFORE TOMORROW. Their latest film, UVANGA, covers a similar theme, focusing on family life in northern Canada. Both films are quite slow, but BEFORE TOMORROW takes a dreadful turn, which ends up making for a better film. Unlike that film though, there really isn’t much going on in UVANGA, which at times makes for a very tough watch. Tomas (Lukasi Forrest) has just turned fourteen, and his mother Anna (Marianne Farley) finally feels that he is ready to visit his deceased father’s homeland to trace his roots. Anna and Tomas arrive in the quiet Arctic community of Igloolik, Nunavut, and are soon reunited with their estranged relatives. While the homecoming is initially a joyous one, things begin to darken as the mystery behind Tomas’ father Caleb’s death comes back to haunt them. With a confrontation from Caleb’s ex-girlfriend, Sheba (Carol Kunnuk) and a surprising realization for Tomas, things may not go as Anna had hoped. For a film that clocks in at just under ninety-minutes, UVANGA certainly feels a lot longer. Barely anything happens after Anna and Tomas are reunited with their family and the filmmakers try desperately to fill the films short running time. The mystery built behind the death of Caleb doesn’t really hold up. The man died over fourteen years earlier, so does it really matter whether he killed himself or drowned? As far as the acting goes, Marianne Farley is quite good as Anna, but her character is not given anything to do, so her talent is wasted for the most part. Many of the film’s actors are Igoolik locals; while this may have seemed like a strong directorial choice, many of these actors simply aren’t believable and their dialogue often feels forced. It’s nice to see a film made about an Inuit community, as this is certainly something rarely seen in cinemas, but it’s unfortunate that it was more interesting than this. UVANGA can be tedious at times, but it does have its poignant moments. Scenes of Tomas being taught to hunt by his uncle are nice, but those few scenes really can’t carry the film. If you were looking for a great Inuit film, your best bet would be to skip UVANGA and pick up BEFORE TOMORROW instead.