Current indie It-girl Ellen Page stars in this pre-Juno effort as a similarly headstrong teenager but whose life is far, far worse simply being pregnant. Here she comes from a dysfunctional home, her high school would be called a snake pit if that weren’t disrespectful to snakes, and her baby brother has disappeared while she was supposed to be taking care of him. She plunges into the underbelly of Toronto in a quest to find him, and an unending picaresque nightmare ensues.
But this isn’t called The Tracey Fragments for nothing, and the above summary fails to convey the actual experience of the film. Director Bruce McDonald breaks the screen up into fragments, and Tracey’s story unfolds as a kaleidoscope of multiple frames and shattered chronology. It’s a technique that won’t work for everyone, and that can be horribly misused, but here I found it both intense and exciting. In fact, it made some of the more familiar and/or hard to take/swallow aspects of the narrative itself much more palatable.
The sound is terrific, and is a compelling partner to the visual assault of the film. Music, especially, works in conjunction with, or counterpoint to, what cascade of images, and is just as driving and intense. The surround effect is well nigh total, and the result can be more than a little disturbing. This is a good thing. Meanwhile, the dialogue is always clear and undistorted no matter how much of a pounding the rest of the track is delivering.
If the images on the screen are cut up, they have been done so with a razor blade. That’s how sharp the edges are. “Sharp” and “stark” are the words that come to mind for describing the colours, the blacks and the contrasts. Everything here is pushed to an almost excessive clarity (including our awareness of different film stocks). And by “excessive,” I mean “excellent.”
Not actually that much here. A fairly standard behind-the-scenes featurette starts things off, and there’s a slide-show still gallery. Leading up to the release of the film, McDonald made raw footage of it available for people to do their own edits, and the winner and runners-up of that contest are present here. Interesting, but of rather nebulous purpose.
This is gruelling stuff, but nicely done.