Local auds may thrill at this visual embodiment of literary treasure, but the story won't resonate elsewhere beyond fests and some ancillary.

A tastefully reverent, fundamentally sincere treatment of Margaret Laurence’s 1964 Manitoba-based novel, a staple for Canada’s 12th graders, “The Stone Angel” plays precisely as expected from a incident-laden, multigenerational and metaphorical book crammed into a conventional running time. Local auds may thrill at this visual embodiment of literary treasure, but the story won’t resonate elsewhere beyond fests and some ancillary.

Cantankerous and proud 90-year-old Hagar Shipley (Ellen Burstyn) breaks free of stuffy, well-meaning son Marvin (Dylan Baker), and his promise of a nursing home, to journey north through Manitoba to the seaside memories of her youth. Along the way she, remembers her marriage to roughneck Bram (played in different generations by father-son thesps Cole and Wings Hauser). Prolific helmer Kari Skogland draws a fiery perf from vet Burstyn and a beguiling one from Christine Horne as the young Hagar. Yet the book’s sheer “Giant”-like scope necessitates generational cross-cutting that’s both rushed and cluttered; pic would have have been better served as a more leisurely miniseries. Tech credits are vivid.

The Stone Angel

Canada

Production

An Alliance Films release of a Buffalo Gal Pictures, Skogland Films production. (International sales: HandMade Films Intl., London.) Produced by Liz Jarvis, Kari Skogland. Executive producers, Bryan Gliserman, Seaton McLean, Michael MacMillan, Guy Collins, Michael Ryan, Phyllis Laing. Directed, written by Kari Skogland, based on the novel by Margaret Laurence.

Crew

Camera (color), Bobby Bukowski; editor, Jim Munro; music, John McCarthy; production designer, Rob Gray. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 13, 2007. (Also in Tokyo Film Festival.) Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Ellen Burstyn, Christine Horne, Cole Hauser, Wings Hauser, Ellen Page, Kevin Zegers, Dylan Baker, Luke Kirby.
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