This Beautiful City

| January 26, 2010

“This Beautiful City,” exposes us to the lights, the sirens and the burdened souls of Toronto. The beautiful Canadian city is used as a breeding ground, breathing some life into five distraught, disappointed and dissolving characters that are all brought down to the same level. But, Toronto itself isn’t enough to save the film from gasping for more air.
Carol (Caroline Cave) oozes sophistication from her stylishly choppy hair to her sleek and subtle smile, but her comfy lifestyle has, of course, left her feeling suffocated enough to stand on the rail of her condo balcony and either hurl herself off or accidentally slip. Harry (Noam Jenkins), Carol’s young, handsome and thoughtful architect husband is unhappy working for his father and trying to figure out how he made his wife so miserable she tried to kill herself. Johnny (Aaron Poole), a small-time hypochondriac pimp with busted teeth and a windbreaker is forced to deal with his demons. Pretty (Kristin Booth), Johnny’s crack-addicted girlfriend has to work for her man to support her drug habit. Peter (Stuard Hughes) is a frustrated cop whose idealism is puked on daily.
If these characters seem archetypical of the gritty street drama, that is because they are. While the premise of having people in significantly different socio-economic and personal circumstances living in the same relative area and treading the same ground is intriguing, the execution of story-telling and character-shaping falls short. The intricate interconnectedness of plots and characters that made movies such as “Crash” so fascinating for viewers is not present here.
The flashes, the bursts, the drugs, the violence, the sex—although they are presented in visually engaging ways, they also drown out the characters. Where these characters could have presented as real and actual people, they are presented as representations. With performances on the verge of greatness, the clearly talented actors could have generated a more profound reaction with more development and stronger dialogue.
Director Ed Gass-Donnelly’s city views, the streets and sounds of the city and the way he captures them are a source of authenticity for the film that should have been extended to the story and to Carol, Harry, Johnny, Pretty and Peter. The visuals are provocative, but the overall picture isn’t. And, while “This Beautiful City” does present a commentary on how social hierarchy means nothing and everything at the same time, it is swallowed by messages of death.

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