This Beautiful City

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Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Stark and inventive, Ed Gass-Donnelly's "This Beautiful City" compares and interlinks the lives of a middle-class couple and a pair of down-and-out drug users all suffering from inner-city angst.

Boasting superior performances by a committed cast topped by the exceptional Aaron Poole and Caroline Cave, who won the big prizes at Canada's ACTRA Awards in February, the film is contrived but powerful. A mood of underlying dread gives each scene extra tension and its gritty portrait of how urban life at all levels can ground people down is striking. It could do well if it's steered towards audiences that respond to edgy and tough-minded dramas.

Harry (Noam Jenkins) and Carol (Cave) are well off but lead parochial and suffocating lives that leave Carol increasingly frustrated. One evening, standing on a chair on the balcony of their apartment, she loses balance and plunges to the ground many feet below. Ignored by the first people who spot her, druggies Johnny (Poole) and Pretty (Kristin Booth), she is helped by troubled police officer Harry (Stuart Hughes) and rushed to hospital.

Cut to three months later with Carol back on her feet with a bad limp and no happier in her marriage. Peter has been put on medical leave from the police force as he's distracted by his search for his missing daughter. Johnny is caught up in the murder of a drug dealer while Pretty turns tricks for her latest score and a chance encounter with Harry leads to an odd sort of friendship.

Gass-Donnelly's script has several surprises in store as the film progresses. While in the end they are not totally unexpected nor entirely convincing, they are gripping. He draws stunning performances from his cast with Poole and Booth going to selfless lengths in portraying desperately lost souls.

Cave delivers a star-making performance as a beautiful and imaginative woman who finds escape from a stultifying life only by putting her life at risk. The anguish in her intelligent eyes caused by competing emotions is rendered subtly but unforgettably.

Production: 3-Legged Dog Films. Cast: Aaron Poole, Caroline Cave, Kristin Booth, Noam Jenkins, Stuart Hughes. Screenwriter/director/editor: Ed Gass-Donnelly. Producers: Ed Gass-Donnelly, Lee Kim, Aaron Poole. Director of photography: Micha Dahan. Production designer: Rachel Ford. Music: FemBots. Costume designer: Rachel Ford. Sales agent: Seville Pictures.

No rating, 87 minutes.


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