06 February 2012

Small Town Murder Songs

Small Town Murder Songs is a quietly powerful film about the effects of violence and the search for redemption in a small Canadian town. After a dead body is found, the local police chief, played excellently by Peter Stormare, is forced to confront his past in the search for the murderer. All the early clues point towards his ex's new boyfriend, the unsavory type found in small rural towns. Pursuing the lead creates problems for the chief as we learn (sparingly) of a recent violent incident that turned his girlfriend and family from him. Though the chief has struggled to move away from the past, redemption is not easily granted; it extracts a tough price. The film does not moralize here; rather, it trusts the audience to fill in the blanks and to interpret the moral dilemmas on their own.

Small Town Murder Songs only runs 75 minutes, but it is a film where no shot is wasted and nothing is unimportant. The director, Ed Glass-Donnelly, unfolds the story in a slow and deliberate fashion. Careful attention is given to exterior shots, music, and the large quotes that are flashed on the screen. This creates a palpable atmosphere, rich in texture and full of life. This quiet yet bold film-making imbues the film with a creeping tension almost from the first scene. It is a tension that builds so slowly that it is almost unnoticed. But when it is, the effects are powerful.

This movie is worthy of a larger audience. Watch it for the way the town becomes another character, watch it for the moral dilemmas, watch it for the excellent soundtrack, watch it for the (surprisingly) emotional impact, watch it for the meditative shots of the land or watch it just for the fun of seeing a great and different sort of film. Most importantly, just watch it.


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