Dolby Sound is a vital force in this film. The narrative is framed — beginning and end — by unseen people around the theatre speaking as if before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That was established to explore Canada’s historic abuse of its indigenous citizens — from the notorious Catholic schools to the current injustice in the treatment of natives, especially the women.
When the film narrative unfurls it’s the hero’s own long and cripplingly suppressed story of his suffering. The surround sound voices put us in the committee, make us a witness and potentially a sharer of the speaker’s horrid experience. That stereo adds to the immediacy of Richard Wagamese’s source novel.
The story is so riveting and the social predicament it exposes so compelling that one can suspend ordinary judgments upon such things as the acting, the narrative rhythm, the emotional manipulation. The cause justifies the means.
All three actors who play Saul at various ages hold us, from the child’s innocence through the adolescent’s promising success to the adult’s defeat. The climactic revelation of the six-year-old’s exploitation provides an unexpected and summary shock.
Wagamese celebrates Canada’s indigenous culture and spirituality in the face of its national oppression. The film does both his fine work and Canada’s shame justice.