At first glance, one may think the micro-budget Murmur an odd choice to open FIN this year.
Missing is the star power from Maudie or the reverence felt for director Thom Fitzgerald that highlighted the last few opening films.
And yet, this exploration of troubled elderly woman Donna and her search for companionship and love speaks more volumes than the last three opening FIN films I saw.
Heather Young’s feature directorial debut finds beauty in the mundane, and achieves glory in simple storytelling. It’s a film that succeeds on a “little engine that could” trajectory, and it’s both an utterly breathtaking and exquisite feature.
Murmur tells the story of Donna, doing community service at a local animal shelter after a DUI arrest. Estranged from her daughter and without friends, she begins to find purpose after she adopts an elderly dog set to be euthanized. In her relationship with cute little Charlie, the two lost, left behind souls find solace in each other.
But as she tries to help more and more animals, her passion becomes an addiction, replacing her alcoholism. She tries to care for these animals until her own life spirals, and her good intentions begin to shift into neglect.
Shan MacDonald embodies Donna with a poise and professionalism I haven’t seen in years. She becomes this woman, and she fills every frame with significance and subtle vulnerability. This, her first film, turns her into a star.
MacDonald and Young have achieved something astounding here. They have managed to bring this emotional script and breathe life into it, and the audience at the Rebecca Cohn last night audibly gasped, sighed and cried as they watched this film unfold.
This isn’t a piece of art. Heather Young’s debut is an investment, emotionally resonant and hard-hitting. It makes us love Donna, regardless of her flaws, and as a result, I couldn’t help but feel transformed after this little Murmur that astounded FIN.