Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Canada/USA, 2019. Oh Ratface Films, Walking Productions. Screenplay by Brett Story. Cinematography by Derek Howard. Produced by Brett Story, Danielle Varga. Music by Troy Herion. Film Editing by Nels Bangerter.
Documentaries that make a city their main subject often try to capture the spirit of the place, but how often do you have the pleasure of watching a film that attempts to capture a city’s soul? Better yet, even more rare is when they actually succeed, as Brett Story has, making a fascinating exploration through New York City that turns parks, bars and streets into gorgeously composed, hauntingly framed images that inspire feelings beyond just visual pleasures. The recent election of Donald Trump as president, which has created a divide in the nation that feels permanent, the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the lingering remains of the economic crash of 2008 are not explicitly discussed by any of Story’s interview subjects but are clearly on their mind as she travels the five boroughs asking New Yorkers to tell her about how they feel about life and the future. Some lament the changes in their neighbourhoods, others, like a boat captain who takes us on a tour of the waters surrounding the island of Manhattan, are concerned about what climate change will do in the years to come. Some of the moments Story captures feel stolen, like when the director asks a man at a bar why he rolled his eyes when she said she was from Canada, and the pace it moves at is careful and measured, allowing the viewer to soak in the magic of the images while carefully considering the opinions and feelings being related.