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Review: The Saver

April 15, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The Saver Poster

Directed by Wiebke Von Carolsfeld, The Saver is a gritty and emotionally affective Canadian drama that captures the all too common realities of living in poverty, especially for Native youth who are often ignored within the system.

The film follows Fern (Imajyn Cardinal), a 16-year-old who is left desperate and alone after the sudden death of her mom, leaving her struggling to make enough money to survive during a harsh Montreal winter.

Terrified of Youth Protection, and heeding the advice of a book she finds about how to become a millionaire, Fern passes herself off as older and gets a job as the janitor at a rundown apartment building, collecting junk and determined to save every little bit of money she can to escape poverty.

There she has to deal with a nosy neighbour (Pascale Bussières) and her non-verbal son (Noah Ruscica), as well as the young guy (Alexandre Landry) who helps her move and keeps coming back expecting more in return.  Fern gets a second job working for an African chef (Hamidou Savadogo), who lets her take home leftovers in exchange for working in his kitchen.  Although she is reluctant to ask for help, Fern can only go on living like this for so long, and the arrival of her Uncle Jack (Brandon Oakes), a kind man who is trying his best to lend a hand, threatens to derail her get rich quick scheme.

A small film with a big heart, The Saver is captivating for the way it shows the tenacity and resilience of a girl who is doing everything in her power to break out of poverty, and make a place for herself in the world.  Appearing in practically every scene, Imajyn Cardinal grounds the film with an always believable performance, showing natural ability in her first big leading role.  The entire ensemble cast is strong, especially the touching supporting work of Brandon Oakes and Hamidou Savadogo.

There is an intimacy to the handheld cinematography, often framing the lead character in closeups, and employing jump cuts and editing choices that give the film a feeling of authenticity.  This is a film filled with touching and sometimes painfully real little moments, keeping us compelled on a scene to scene basis throughout every single one of Fern’s small leaps forward and all too common setbacks, right through to the bittersweet and quietly hopeful final scenes.

The Saver is now playing in limited release at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

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