I have the utmost respect for films like "Marion Bridge". To be so beautifully honest and heartwrenchingly down-to-Earth with a plot that screams "soap opera!" is no small feat. To then take that and create a film that is compelling from first frame to last is all the more impressive. In the cluttered scene of half-baked dramas trying too hard to find a falsely earned "deeper meaning", "Marion Bridge" stands out as a beautiful reminder that a fine, simple narrative still means something to someone.
Agnes (Molly Parker) is returning home after a job in Toronto. Her mother Rose (Marguerite McNeil) is dying of cancer (she is a chronic smoker and alcoholic), and there are plenty of changes around the house. Agnes' two sisters, Theresa (Rebecca Jenkins) and Louise (Stacy Smith) are both still living in the house, and try to keep an eye on Agnes, who has a track record of bringing home strangers and has her own problems with booze and drugs (which, she claims, she hasn't touched for weeks).
While Theresa stalks her ex-husband and Louise makes friends at a local prayer meeting, Agnes begins to spend her afternoons sitting in a car in front of a shop in which her daughter, who has never met her before, works. Watching this makes her think that Rose should come home; and she presents this as a possible option. Not surprisingly, this doesn't sit well with Theresa and Louise.
Daniel MacIvor, screenwriter and author of the play on which "Marion Bridge" is based, has put enormous faith in his characters; much of the power that lies in the film comes from MacIvor's complete faith in them. These characters are not mere pawns in some plot, but instead the story is fueled by the actions, (more like compulsions) of each of the characters. This is the kind of thing that independent film is beginning to lack; too many filmmakers and screenwriters strive so hard to find meaning through complex plot structure and predestined climaxes; little do many know that most of the great filmmakers today merely trust their characters to act on their own and go from there.
Molly Parker, Stacy Smith, and Rebecca Jenkins have a miraculous ability to make their portrait of sisterly love seem so easy. They act with such a comfort around each other that they do not have to say a word and within five seconds of their first scene together, we can sense instantly that these are three who have known each other intimately for their entire lives.
Although director Wibke von Carolsfeld has crafted "Marion Bridge" with a certain intimacy, it has an unmistakable epic feel. It's clear that this feeling doesn't come with enormity in style; although there are plenty of fine shots flattering the Nova Scotia coastline. This is more a sense that comes at the end of a journey. "Marion Bridge" gives the sense that each of the characters has undergone great change, but it doesn't cheat to get there. Not for a second did I feel that any moment was stolen. If I am going to cry during a film, my tears have to be earned; one hundred percent. With grace, candor, and delicacy, "Marion Bridge" succeeded in getting this stubborn critic, who very rarely gets emotional when watching a film, to open up the waterworks. I can count on one hand the amount of times that that has happened to me during any film.