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TIFF 2018 Review: “Splinters” (2018) ★★★


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“Splinters” is not necessarily about Belle being gay or her mother, who lives in rural Nova Scotia, demanding Belle to convert herself back to being straight. It’s about what Belle wants eventually, how does she see herself in her own eyes and how does the young woman appears in the eyes of her mother, brother and the neighborhood if she puts herself in their shoes for a second. But a small funeral will turn into a battle within the family where Belle will still try to reconcile with her old fashioned and superbly conservative mother, Nancy, who wants nothing more but her daughter ending up building her own life with a man.

It’s very complicated for Belle, and it gets even worse when her boyfriend, Rob, appears the same night when she returns home for the funeral of her father. But Belle prefers not to tell her mother about her boyfriend to prevent complicating matters further. She, of course, is extremely lucky to have a supportive brother. However, that cannot be said for her father who we never met,but can be assumed to have never been so close with his own daughter.

“Splinters” is a solid family drama about feelings, fears, good or bad, and more importantly what is best for one individual. Belle, along the way, will learn and grow at the same time. She knows despite her mother being so pushy about Belle’s sexuality, the young woman will realize at some point that Nancy wants only the best for her flesh and blood. But what is best or not is, of course, the life lesson up for Belle to pick up.

Belle has come home to rural Nova Scotia for her father’s funeral. She came out as a teenager but has never reconciled that fact with her conservative mother, Nancy. Amidst the family’s grief, Nancy’s disapproval of Belle hangs in the air like a dark cloud. Belle neglects to mention to her family that she has been dating a man named Rob for the past two years. She is reluctant to rekindle her mother’s traditional expectations of her and backpedal on hard-won battles to assert her identity. But the secret becomes harder to hide when Rob shows up as the supportive boyfriend.

Based on the stage play by Lee-Anne Poole, “Splinters” is supported by the solid performances of Sofia Banzhaf and Shelley Thompson, who are up against two strong female characters they must shape in their own way. That said, while I can hardly call this piece a masterpiece for it doesn’t have anything new to offer, it is still worthwhile and I am sure you won’t regret investing time on it.

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