FIN review: harrowing performances light a dark Bone Cage

Taylor Olson's feature directorial debut plays as part of this year's Atlantic International Film Festival

Bone Cage, premiering online as part of this year’s FIN Atlantic Film Festival, is the story of four young Canadians living and dying in rural Canada who give new meaning to the cliche “one step forward, two steps back.”

Adapted from playwright Catherine Banks’ award-winning play of the same name, the film marks local actor Taylor Olson’s feature directorial debut in which he also writes and stars.

All four characters deal with demons from their past, something caging them into their current situations, making it nearly impossible for them to break free. With their souls trapped in the “bone cage” of their bodies, it is a metaphor which is a bit on the nose and heavy-handedly delivered throughout the film.

At times the dialogue is poetic, but it also feels obvious, especially when it’s already apparent to the film watcher that these people are nobodies going nowhere.

Whether it’s rescuing dead birds, unhatched eggs, or a hawk who cannot fly, Jamie’s skill at collecting damaged goods extends far beyond his animal menagerie to his friends and family.

The performances are all excellent, with Olson giving an anchoring performance. Olson shows us a man constantly juggling everything life throws at him, knowing full well there’s going to be a point where all the balls drop. His realistic optimism is palpable from the first time we see him. Ultimately, this is a man who knows the boat is sinking but still makes a concerted effort to bale the water out as quickly as possible.

Also exceptional is Sam Vigneault as his friend Kevin. A kind of Sancho Panza to Olson’s Don Quixote, Kevin follows his best friend around like a lapdog. Eager to please, he is just as terrified to disappoint. The chemistry between the two is tangible, ranging from the familial to homoerotic.

A realistic yet depressing film, Bone Cage’s harrowing performances bring some light to its darkness.

Bone Cage screens as part of the digital offerings at this year’s FIN Atlantic International Film Festival from September 17 through September 24. Visit finfestival.ca for tickets and information.