This Beautiful City (***)
Local stage director Ed Gass-Donnelly has set his take on urban alienation and desperation in Queen West West, a decision that makes the mercurial neighbourhood a pivotal sixth character in this bleak five-person story. The characters’ worlds collide when Carol (Caroline Cave), a downtrodden architect’s wife, plunges from her condo’s balcony to the alley below, drawing coke-addled prostitute Pretty (Kristin Booth, who also stars in Young People Fucking), her boyfriend, Johnny (Aaron Poole), and cop Peter (Stuart Hughes) to the scene. Fast-forward three months later and Carol has survived, but now she must deal with her crumbling marriage to Harry (Noam Jenkins), who is consumed by the fact that he doesn’t know if she leaped or fell from their home.
Gass-Donnelly’s first feature is self-assured and stylish (if quietly overwrought), offering up a gritty version of Toronto the Good not often seen in Canadian film. It’s difficult to fully commit to a work that depicts the city’s denizens solely as out-of-touch bourgeois lofties living in antiseptic spaces, or hopeless, laneway-frequenting drug addicts, but its message resonates: whatever our stations in life, we’re all hiding from something.
This Beautiful City is now playing at the Royal (608 College St.).”