Film note: Ellen Page in “Fragments”

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At the beginning of The Tracey Fragments, one of the selections from Canada in this year’s Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, the character Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page) says, “I’m Tracey Berkowitz, and I’m just your average teenager who hates herself.”

The Tracey Fragments is screening as part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival on April 25 and 28 at St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis. For information and tickets ($9), see mspfilmfest.org.


That pretty much sums up what the viewer is about to encounter. The movie takes an intimate, disturbing look at this teenager’s sad life—making clear that Tracey has plenty of reasons to feel low. Her parents constantly fight, Tracey is tortured at school, and is called “It” by all of her peers. On top of all that, Tracey’s 9-year-old brother, who thinks he’s a dog, has gone missing.

To rate and comment on The Tracey Fragments and every other film in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, see tcdailyplanet.net/filmfest.

At the film’s outset we see Tracey run away from home, promising to find Sonny and bring him back to his parents. The Tracey Fragments chronicles her journey through the dark city streets, sleeping on cardboard, defending herself from a would-be rapist (in one of many disturbing scenes), and enduring therapy sessions that her parents have forced her to attend.

In short, this is not a light-hearted film. This films falls under the category of those good and compelling films that are simply hard to watch. Tracey’s life is dark and disturbed, and the viewer must be able to stomach the film’s violent themes and scenes. The movie comes in at a tight 77 minutes, but truthfully, it couldn’t have lasted a moment longer.

Among many reasons the film is worth seeing is director Bruce McDonald’s use of multiple cameras and non-linear storytelling. The scenes—which recall the television program 24, with its multiple viewpoints shown simultaneously on screen—are edited together with a “connect-the-dots” approach that asks the viewer to decipher the pieces of the puzzle. The music, much of it composed and performed by the Canadian group Broken Social Scene, adds an effectively psychotic element.

Ellen Page, who has risen to fame thanks to her starring role in Juno, once again plays an angst-ridden teenager—very similar to her roles both in Juno and the recently-released Smart People. She picked up a Canadian Best Actress Award for this role, and she does a fine job, but she needs to now move beyond such dark characters if she wants to create a diverse acting résumé.

Is The Tracey Fragments good? Yes. It’s well-made, gritty, and compelling. Is the movie easy to watch? Not by any means. If you’re looking for a film that’s easy to digest, you’ll want to make another selection.

Stephen Sporer works at Macalester College in St. Paul and has reviewed films for KTFM, San Antonio’s most popular radio station. He recently moved to the Twin Cities from New York, where he studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College as well as acting and singing at a wide range of venues.

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