TIFF 2021- The Impact of Connection and Community in “Scarborough”: Film Review

A community is only as strong as those who reside in it. Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson’s Scarborough is full of resilient individuals who manage to find happiness in even the most dire of circumstances.

It is in this Toronto suburb that we follow the lives of Bing (Liam Diaz), Sylvie (Essence Fox), and Laura (Anna Claire Beitel), three children who try and make the best of their low income neighborhood. While they all come from some sort of broken home and we see them put through hardship after hardship, these kids still find joy in the smallest ways. Whether it’s a trip to the dollar store or playing in a nail salon while their mothers work, Bing, Sylvie, and Laura create a environment of wonder and happiness that only a child can develop.

In order to have a strong community, there must be an area to foster friendships and connections outside of work and school. For Scarborough, that third place is the Ontario Reads Centre, managed by Ms. Hina (Aliya Kanani). The centre is no bigger than the size of a classroom and the only snacks provided are apples and fruit cups. Yet the heart of Ms. Hina as she helps struggling single parents is larger than the CN Tower.

When we tend to look at the big picture of society’s problems, trying to find a way to help seems overwhelming and hopeless. Yet Scarborough shows just how vital even one person’s effort are to help a community in need. The extreme close up shots throughout reminds the audience that these individuals are not just characters on a screen. They are people in our community, begging to be seen and loved. From this reviewer to all those who are struggling to stay afloat: I see you, I love you, and I’m here to help.

The Silver Lining

While all three interconnected narratives are filled with depth and pathos, Laura’s storyline is heartbreaking beyond belief. Screenwriter Catherine Hernandez exquisitely crafts Laura’s life as one largely devoid of dialogue. In a home with neglectful and abusive parents, Laura is never given an opportunity to have a voice, which is reflected in Hernandez’s script.

The audience is still able to empathize with Laura given Anna Claire Beitel’s incredible performance. There’s a pain in Laura’s eyes that projects a sorrow that no child should ever experience. The way Laura frantically and desperately sucks the juice out of a fruit cup brought me to tears. How a young actor like Beitel is able to evoke such emotion from such simple mannerisms proves her more capable than performers three times her age.

Scarborough is coming soon to a screen near you.

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