Published Dec 11, 2008Unlike other recent city-themed compilation films Paris Je T'Aime or New York, I Love You, this humdrum compilation from four talented filmmakers is a disappointment. Toronto Stories is neither romantic, exciting, nor funny; it's unfortunately just a drab exercise in navel-gazing.
First up is Aaron Woodley's Shoelaces, about two adventurous young kids who play Hardy Boys and search for a mythological tunnel monster in a Toronto park. Woodley's urban gothic style from 2003's Rhinoceros Eyes adds a minor blip of creepy fantasy to this segment but just when it gets good the segment ends unresolved.
Sook-Yin Lee provokes us once again with her segment The Brazilian about - guess what? - a woman who gets a Brazilian to help court her love-shy boyfriend. Lee goes buff a couple of times, the effect of which is neither humorous nor shocking. These inconsistent quirky tones result in another unsatisfying and unfocused segment.
It doesn't improve with Sudz Sutherland's story, Windows, featuring K.C. Collins as a hardworking window cleaner who meets an old friend from prison and is drawn back into his criminal past. Collins's banter is a refreshing jolt of naturalism but the emotions of a struggling con to stay on the straight and narrow are lost when the segment devolves into a series of contrived actions and inexplicable decisions from the lead.
David Weaver finishes it off by wrapping up the anthology's through line about a lost young immigrant boy saved by a kind homeless man. Lost Boys is probably the best of the bunch but in the end nothing is revealed that enlightens the rest of the stories or the city itself. Perhaps something deeper lies below this track but if it's there it's inaccessible and certainly too oblique and impenetrable for an audience to cling to.
The only thing to take home from this exercise is Samy Inayeh's sharp, wide-angle photography shot in recognizable places, the involvement of the local music scene including Broken Social Scene and Jason Collett, and maybe a reinforcement of the general perception of aloofness of Torontonians. (E1)