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This article was published 11/7/2020 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The seemingly eternal battle between so-called "pro-life" and pro-choice camps presents a subject rich in explosive conflict. For that reason alone, you would think it would come up more often than it does in drama.

But it does not. Presumably, the conflict is just too divisive, the chasm is too great to be bridged by any work of art.

That the subject comes up in the Canadian film Catch and Release is a little triumph in itself. An adaptation of Jane Martin’s 1994 play Keely and Du, the movie’s directors Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert take the bleak setting of the play — a basement — and transfer it to a much more cinematic wilderness island in Ontario. It is there, Keely (Quebec actress Laurence Leboeuf) awakens in a bed to discover she has been drugged and kidnapped on her way to an abortion clinic.

Her sole minder is Du (Winnipeg-born stage vet Nancy Palk), a determined, dutiful religious zealot who evidently believes extreme measures are justified when it comes to preventing abortions.

At first, Du may presume Keely to be an irresponsible young woman unwilling to take responsibility for her actions. (Keely herself plays into this notion, shocking Du with casual displays of nudity and provocative reminiscences about her first female lover.)

But Du’s resolve is tested in this captive-audience situation. She learns, for example, that Keely was getting an abortion after being raped by her violent ex-husband (Peter Mooney).

Du’s own story is of a woman whose mother died at an early age, forcing her to obediently take on maternal duties for her younger siblings in support of her own stern father.

Presumably reflecting that relationship are Du’s encounters with her superior in the anti-abortion organization. Robert (Aidan Devine), Keely’s kidnapper, is a ramrod-straight Christian zealot whose lofty paternalistic facade betrays fissures of rage and brutality. One particular encounter between Keely and Robert leaves the already traumatized Keely in a state of near paralysis.

Co-directors Cardona and Colbert resist the impulse to simplify all this into a straight good-and-evil dynamic.

The redeeming ambiguity of the film is largely the result of Palk’s work here. One might be horrified by the plot in which Du participates, but Palk allows the character flashes of decency and strength, as in a scene in which she quietly sets out to hunt a stray bear that has wandered into the vicinity of their cabin. How interesting it is that the bear and Robert evoke precisely the same feelings of dread in the audience.

Palk’s chilled gravitas is nicely contrasted by Leboeuf’s fire as Keely, who gives herself licence to express all the things — rage, fear, passion — that Du keeps bottled up.

Catch and Release was completed a couple of years ago and screened at film festivals under the title Keely and Du. But one can’t help feel the release now is somehow timely in this golden age of division.

The film slowly and credibly builds a bridge between two diametrically opposite individuals. Call it another little triumph.

 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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