'Stone's Throw' lacks focus

LIZ BRAUN - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:04 AM ET

A Stone's Throw is a bleak outing about family and the past, and with a dash of environmental action tossed in for good measure.

The movie is often beautiful to look at, but weak storytelling overwhelms attractive pictures.

Kris Holden-Ried plays Jack, a photojournalist who turns up at his sister's house in Nova Scotia after an eight-year absence. There's something wacky about Jack's point-of-view (literally) and it turns out he is going blind.

One of his objectives in returning home is to advise his sister (Kathryn MacLellan) that the condition is heritable. She has two children, and Jack wants to be sure they get their vision tested.

His other reasons for coming home aren't quite as clear. Jack's business is to photograph the evidence when companies pollute the landscape; there's some old-scandal wound into the narrative involving a family-owned mine and toxic pollution.

And there's a new scandal brewing with a local company that uses chemicals -- and may be affecting the health of the townspeople. One little girl has bad asthma, for example, but nobody seems willing to take action. Jobs are at stake.

Complicating matters is Jack's affair with a village teacher (Lisa Ray). Then there's Jack's relationship with his teenage nephew (Aaron Webber), an earnest kid who wants to follow in Jack's activist footsteps. This is not necessarily a good thing, as Jack's beliefs have made him the prime suspect in a mine fire. Anyway, Jack finds out you can't go home again. Or maybe you can. Anyway, what's a guy who's going blind doing driving a car around so much? That was worrisome.

A Stone's Throw never makes clear the motivation or even the aspirations of its characters. The story is relentlessly downbeat, all angry people and intense music, but not for any reason we could fathom.

This is Camelia Frieberg's feature directorial debut, and for this viewer it unfolds like a series of lovely shots that are never quite strung together. Nonetheless, A Stone's Throw won Best Atlantic Feature at the 2006 Atlantic Film Festival.

(This film is rated PG)


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