Small Town Murder Songs
Toronto-based Ed Gass-Donnelly began as a theatre director, cycled his way through rites of passage making shorts, and launched his first feature, This Beautiful City, at TIFF in 2007. His sophomore effort, Small Town Murder Songs, follows Walter (Fargo‘s Peter Stormare), chief of police to a small town in southern Ontario Mennonite country, as he grapples with the discovery of a murdered woman’s body. There’s no real whodunnit here: the murder is less a mystery and more a point of access to questions about repression, redemption, and the way that violence can sometimes be incredibly quiet. (When violence isn’t quiet, by the way, it is set to a soundtrack by choral indie foot-stompers Bruce Peninsula.)
Small Town Murder Songs offers a particular breed of Canadiana, and it’s the sort of thing you either love or you hate: sparse dialogue delivered in thick Canadian accents, the muted palette of a rural Ontario landscape, often heavy-handed religious undertones. It just so happens that we like this sort of thing, but it won’t be everyone’s bag.
Peter Stormare delivers something haunted and incredibly controlled. There are also some really stand-out supporting performances: Martha Plimpton as Walter’s upright, God-fearing girlfriend, Aaron Poole as Walter’s young police partner, and a brief, stunning appearance by Jackie Burroughs (Aunt Hetty to anyone who was raised on Road to Avonlea).
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