Hot Docs 2021: “Grey Roads”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

What do we do to grow as a human being, a professional, a spouse, a parent, a friend or just a representative of the community we belong to? What I have asked might be a simple or complicated question to answer. Let’s be clear, I am not here to lecture you or anyone else. What is the next step for us if we find ourselves stuck in our bubble that shrinks every day, as we don’t know how to break the routine that becomes an obsessive habit, we no longer can get rid of?

Perhaps, it was not the intention of filmmaker Jesse McCracken to raise a global issue with his intimate and personal documentary called by a title that carries a much deeper meaning, “Grey Roads”. The filmmaker comes to a small town called Markdale, Ontario, a place he once called home. As his camera slowly but steadily captures the life of the new town he Is not part of anymore, he films his father and grandfather who still reside in a place you would probably call boring. However, what appears to be an uneventful place to us, seems perfect for McCracken’s family, as they certainly find it much more entertaining and acceptable to spend the rest of their lives.

As you watch what they have to say, you learn how beautiful the town is and how much they struggle to invite people from outside. With no elementary school left, the film explores the financial hardship of Markdale, and why it can’t build a better ground for the future generation. However, all that is not just part of “Grey Roads”. For instance, we hear McCracken’s mother’s voice when she explains why she had to leave the town. As she states her case, you will find it logical. What we learn from her, and pretty much from life itself, is that there are two types of people – those wanting to have a prosperous life and those that are ok with what they have, expressing no desire to get more.

Obviously, in this story, we are not the judge or jurors. We don’t condemn nor give approval to anything we disagree with. Even though it may sound that way, the film touches upon not only the exclusive subject matter of capturing the life of Markdale, family portrait, and how that black-and-white frame slowly turns into a colorful one because the filmmaker is able to find a way back to his father’s heart.

That said, “Grey Roads” is an interesting documentary that will trigger your interest in it as soon as it starts. It’s educational, intelligent and engaging. Even though it mostly talks about the family and the reasons for staying in or making a choice to relocate elsewhere, it shows why each choice made is justifiable on their own merit. That alone will open up a conversation for bigger questions like migrating not just from one country to another, from one city to another one, within the same country, because what is believed by outsiders to be the perfect place, some find it dull for lack of opportunities and no future to grow in any way.

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