Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's a dark, twisted journey, but drama is worth the trip

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They say you can't go home again.

They're wrong; most of the time, you can. It's just that the journey might not be an easy one.

For a girl named Michelle, the central character in the locally produced movie Euphoria, home is a destination rooted more in principle than geography. And because of that, her decision to return there is fraught with emotional peril.

Euphoria, written and directed by Winnipeg filmmaker Paula Kelly and produced by locally based Inferno Productions, tells the story of a young woman who decides to return home after learning her entire life away from there has been based on a singular, long-sustained lie.

The film has its TV première tonight at 7 on the Super Channel premium-cable network (debuting on Super Channel 4, and rotating frequently through the outlet's quartet of channels for the next few weeks).

The film opens in 1999, just outside the titular small Manitoba town, on a two-lane highway upon which a van is travelling with great haste. Inside are Celeste (Sarah Constible) and her daughter, Lily (Taya Dawn Ayotte Bourns). The daughter asks where they're going; the mother stares wordlessly toward the horizon and drives.

Where they're headed, we find out, is east. The final destination isn't really important, because this trip is less about going somewhere than it is about getting away from someplace else.

Flash-forward to the present, and Celeste is still driving the same old van; beside her in the front seat is her now-grown daughter (Brooke Palsson), who, for reasons that will soon become clear, now goes by the name Michelle.

As they arrive outside an apartment block in Montreal, it's evident that they're on the move, and it's equally clear that on the move -- driven by Celeste's perpetually near-hysterical fear -- is the way they've existed for more almost a decade and a half.

But as they settle into this most recent of temporary homes, Michelle has clearly had enough. She sorts through the meagre collection of treasures -- an old stuffed rabbit, a few trinkets and a torn photograph -- that summarizes her life, and questions arise.

Michelle wants to know about the man in the torn photo -- her father, she thinks -- and demands to know what happened to him. The story she has always been told is that he died; when she begins to press for details, that explanation begins to unravel.

Celeste is forced to confess that she fabricated the story of Michelle/Lily's father's death, but insists that the lie was told to protect the little girl from a father who was "not a good man."

The explanation and sort-of apology are not enough. When Celeste goes to sleep, Michelle grabs the keys to the van and a handful of cash, and she's gone.

What follows is a road trip on which not all that much of consequence happens. It feels, however, like Michelle goes through an awful lot; the closer she gets to home, the weightier the truth of her journey becomes.

Her travels take her through places that inspire flashes of vague memory and add small, jumbled pieces to the puzzle she's trying to solve.

At various stops, she reaches out to her mother by telephone; the conversations aren't easy, but they are, by degree, elucidating.

What makes Euphoria compelling is the depth of emotion Palsson and Constible bring to a story in which so little actually occurs. It's a formidably mature performance by Palsson, who demonstrates she's ready for meatier fare than the teenage sitcom fun she contributes to Less Than Kind.

And Constible -- known for her comedic work as a member of the Royal Liechtenstein Theatre Company -- explores dark corners of humanity as the mother whose desperation drove her to conclude that abducting her own child was the only option available.

It isn't an easy trip, but these two local performers make it worth taking. Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2013 C3

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