NCR: Not Criminally Responsible
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NCR: Not Criminally Responsible

A mentally-ill violent offender looks for forgiveness.

DIRECTED BY JOHN KASTNER (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)


Sunday, April 28, 9:30 p.m.
Elisabeth Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Tuesday, April 30, 3:30 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West)

Sunday, May 5, 1 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

In 1999, Sean Clifton, who was suffering from severe untreated mental illnesses, stabbed and nearly killed Julie Bouvier in front of a Walmart in Cornwall, Ontario. Not Criminally Responsible finds Clifton 12 years later, as he makes incredible strides towards recovery after spending years in a psychiatric hospital.

The documentary follows Clifton through the process of applying to a review board for a conditional release, which would allow him greater freedom. His quest for healing and forgiveness is juxtaposed with the still-raw pain of his victim. This is the real strength of Not Criminally Responsible: it manages the audience’s sympathies with subtlety and grace, shifting fluidly between Sean and Julie as the narrative unfolds.

Writer, director, and producer Jon Kastner presents an incredibly complete portrait of Clifton and the vast support and monitoring network set up around him. Where Not Criminally Responsible suffers are moments when it strains to be dramatic. It succeeds where it lingers over moments of human awkwardness: Clifton in his bathrobe, Julie’s father overcome with emotion in the middle of his interview, Clifton’s roommate demonstrating his martial arts moves to an outreach nurse. The film is surprisingly quiet and thoughtful, despite the violence at its centre.

See All Hot Docs 2013 Reviews