Tracey is in therapy for teen-rebellion issues. One day while hooking up with a boy she likes from class, she loses her cute little brother, who presumably drowns in the icy river. Tracey can’t deal with what she’s done, wanders the city getting into dangerous situations looking for her brother. Part of her actually expects to find him but mostly it seems like a grief/catharsis journey.
Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic say the movie was mostly disliked, the IMDB reviewers say it “sucks,” but a lone blog (Subtitle Literate) put it on their best-of-decade list alongside nine other movies I saw and liked, so I sought it out. And I’m going to side with the lone blogger. It’s a teen family-problems death-and-grief depression drama AND it’s presented via extreme split-screen, with frames within and beside each other, displaying memory and fantasy and foreshadow and unrelated footage, and the timeline of the main narrative is scrambled as well. Sounds like the kind of thing I would hate, but it’s done very, very well. I liked Ellen Page (Juno, Hard Candy, Whip It, X-Men 3, gee I watch a lot of Ellen Page movies) and loved her little brother (pretending to be a dog), her cross-dressing psychiatrist (would anyone visit a cross-dressing psychiatrist?), the questionably dangerous guy she befriends in the city (“Lance From Toronto”) and dream sequences of her behind-the-music imagined future with new kid in school Billy Zero. But mostly I was bowled over by the editing, which doesn’t seem arbitrary like 21 Grams, but carefully thought-out to make emotional sense.
What’s it say on the board? Pontypool (changes everything).
Bruce’s first theatrical flick since 2001 (I’m not sure that it opened here). McDonald once again has book’s author write the screenplay (see also: Pontypool). Shot on Inland Empire-looking “bad” DV and populated with the finest Canadian actors, including Ari Cohen (Archangel) as Tracey’s dad, Max McCabe (Land of the Dead) as Lance From Toronto and Julian Richards (Hard Core Logo, Survival of the Dead, opening scene of Cube) as the psychiatrist.
D. Sallitt, 2007:
Knowing that he’s discovered the philosopher’s stone, McDonald tirelessly generates new formal prototypes every few seconds, and leaves us at film’s end with the sense that he could have kept going forever. What makes Tracey more than an impressive demo is its unity of form and feeling, the sense that its screen may have been shattered by its young protagonist’s hormonal violence, McDonald’s wild-eyed punkish sense of drama, and Medved’s vivid dialogue
D. Sallitt, 2008:
McDonald and his admirable writer Medved did not choose random subject matter for this experiment. Not only does the style seem intended to reflect the streaming consciousness of Medved’s material, but there is also a strong underlying musical structure to the film, with music and dialogue working together to organize the story into movements that almost resemble musical numbers.