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Writer/Dir: Ed Gass-Donnelly (This Beautiful City)
Cast: Peter Stormare, Aaron Poole, Jill Hennessey, Martha Plimpton, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Ari Cohen, Alexandria Benoit
Reason to see: I really enjoyed This Beautiful City, plus Small Town Murder Songs came on high recommendation from my colleague Marina's as one of her Top Ten films of 2010.
Small Town Murder Songs is set in a small town Ontario community whose calm is breached by the discovery of a crime. The title is as literal as it is intriguing, just like the film itself. You feel yourself being quickly yet subtly drawn into this world which on one hand everything feels very clear, yet on the other there is always a kernel of an idea planted that keeps you yearning to know more.
The film stars Peter Stormare (Fargo) as Walter, the police office who seems continually at odds within the different communities of the town, but is insistently pressed on to solve the case creating a tense atmosphere without much support. While Walter has a constant undercurrent of being slightly uncomfortable in his own skin, we have in contrast his partner Jim (Aaron Poole of This Beautiful City) who plays the cop with keen observations, common sense and all around stand-up guy. Between the two of them we get just the tip of the iceberg of the exceptional performances by the formidable cast which also includes Jill Hennessey, Martha Plimpton, Stephen Eric McIntyre and Ari Cohen. It's a joy to watch the story unfold through the journeys of the fantastic characters portrayed by such a talented cast.
The powerful score sets an impressive and all-encompassing atmosphere to the film, which instantly draws you in and keeps you present throughout. I loved how the film uniquely presents the small town with a layered and quietly complex atmosphere with several different communities intersecting, all of which are strongly affected by the crime that has appeared. It's a beautiful choice to show and hold with that people are truly affected by what happened, which is what sets the film apart from a lot crime-centric fair we get as it keep the humanity and emotions present throughout.
It's an extremely powerful, beautiful film that is not to be missed. Small Town Murder Songs is the first perfect film of 2011 and I highly recommend checking it out.
- Feature Commentary with writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly on the inspiration of the film being to write a film around an album and the musics impact on the process and end result of the film, the use of title cards, themes of the film, the importance and use of tension, the setting and authenticity of filming in a small town, the casting - especially Peter Stormare and casting against type plus casting Canadian for several of the characters, on the running time of the film and changes to the film along the way and a lot about the character of Walter (played by Peter Stormare) and his journey through the film.
- Feature Commentary with Peter Stormare pretty funny and really reactionary commentary from actor Peter Stormare on his first watch of the film, laced with great dry humour throughout. He discusses his character Walter including his past, his journey in the film, his relationship with the Mennonite community and other people within the communities in the small town; also discusses his interpretation of what really happened or what would have liked to happen in the film, challenges of the film, funny stories from filming and shares much love while discussing working with the cast & crew. It's quite a reflective and reactionary commentary being a first watch, but he also very much feels like he's directly talking to you (like saying "I'll let you know a little bit about this..."), makes it a really interesting commentaries to listen to.
- Deleted Scenes (5 scenes, 6 minutes) with optional commentary from writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly combination of deleted & extended scenes and enjoyed watching them because I love the film and there are some interesting insights & character moments but the pacing of the final film is so perfect I'm glad they aren't in. The commentary with writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly add depth to the scenes, that their contribution to the film they made and explanation to why they aren't in the film.
- Interviews with writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly and actor Aaron Poole on Episode 25 of the Movie Moxie Podcast
- Transcript of Ed Gass-Donnelly interview
- Transcript of Aaron Poole interview
- Theatrical Review of Small Town Murder Songs
It's perfect. I loved it
I'll watch it again, repeatedly
I highly & widely recommend it
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© Shannon Ridler, 2011
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - February 17, 2011