This Movie is Broken

The Broken Social Scene movie: a review of This Movie Is Broken

The first time I saw Broken Social Scene was in 2003. I wasn't particularly familiar with them at the time, but I had friends who were adamant fans and I went along for the ride.

It was the first of a two-night stint at Lee's Palace, and I must admit, it kind of changed my life. It's rare to get the opportunity to be introduced to a band at a live concert. With the ease and access MP3's afford, I'm rarely caught off guard by a band, but that night I was.

The show was this poignant amalgamation of collected enthusiasm. Lee's was sold out and I think both the band and the crowd were drunk on the incredible success of You Forgot it in People. I hadn't seen quite same kind of joy again until last year--July 11, 2009 at the Harbourfront.

The Harbourfront show is captured in Bruce McDonald's new love letter to Toronto This Movie is Broken. The film, which threads the show together with a loose narrative, begins with Bruno and Caroline lying next to one another on a makeshift roof top bed.

"I woke up this morning next to Caroline Rush," Bruno says. " Do you know what that means? That means I went to bed last night with Caroline Rush!"

The story that follows, written by Don McKellar, canoodles through the neighbourhoods of Toronto as the two longtime friends turned overnight lovers spend one last day together before Caroline leaves for school in Paris. The goal: Backstage passes to the aforementioned Broken Social Scene show that evening.

As the day unfolds, the two wander down city streets revealing a dreamy version of the city in which they reside. Punctuated with hyper close ups and a fluid focus, the scenes begin to feel more like memories, snap shots of summertime romances gone by.

But this Toronto isn't one of fiction or fantasy--it's ours. It's the Toronto of July 11, 2009. The Honda (Molson) Indy provides an almost constant hum to the background of the film while the city suffers through a particularly wretched garbage strike that has piles of trash lining the streets and temporary dumpsites taking over public parks. It's a picture of a place still vivid in the mind, a time just long ago enough to mythologize.

Interspersed selections from that Harbourfront show set the mood--above all else, this is still a concert film. The band is more complete than it has been in years, boasting upwards of 20 members including Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, Amy Millan and virtually everyone who has made any kind of significant contribution to the band over the years. Like the star-crossed lovers in the audience, they're united for one night before they splinter off again into their own projects and lives. But while they're together, they're on fire.

The set list leaves nothing out, with a string of crowd favorites spanning the entire performance including original contributions from Feist, Metric, Jason Collett and Stars. The no stops approach to the show certainly must be attributed in part to the filming of this movie, but it also really felt like a thank you to the city that raised them.

Don McKellar's simple story clings to the songs like ivy, and while the two are never explicitly linked both benefit from the emotional weight provided by the other. The film ends up as a meditation on life, love and the complicated and confusing nature of human relationships.

It's a love story for sure, one between people, a band, and the city that holds them.

This Movie is Broken hits theatres on June 25th

Writing by Luke Champion


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