Runtime: 120 minutes
Writer/Director: Marie Clements
Actors: Grace Dove, Philip Lewitski, Remy Girard, Alyssa Wapanatahk, Gail Maurice, Jonathan Whitesell, Cara Gee
By Joan Amenn
That the Native people of the United States and Canada have suffered horrific treatment at the hands of the respective governments of each country is well known. What is not acknowledged until recently is that innocent children by the thousands were taken from their Native parents by the Catholic Church and sent to “residential schools.” These were more akin to prisons and to this day, it is unknown how many died of neglect, abuse and starvation only to be buried in unmarked graves. “Bones of Crows” (2022) tells this heartrending story by focusing on one remarkable woman played by the outstanding Grace Dove.
Aline Spears (Dove) represents every child who had their potential, their security, and their freedom stripped from them in unimaginable cruelty. She and her siblings struggle to survive and later on in life, still feel the effects of lingering trauma. Director Marie Clements knows how to invoke emotion in her lighting and camera choices. From the warm sepia tones of the open prairie that was Aline’s home to the cold blues and greys that color the heartless institution she is trapped in; Clements pulls us into her story. The cast is excellent, particularly Philip Lewitski as the love of Aline’s life and Jonathan Whitesell as an authority figure who should have protected her but did not. Cara Gee from “The Expanse” makes a cameo at the end and it is just sheer joy to behold, not just for Aline in context of the story but for the viewer as well.
There is no easy resolution to the pain and suffering that was endured by countless families at the mercy of forces more powerful and wealthier than themselves. Clements does not try to make it easier on the viewer by tying up Aline’s life in a neat package. Instead, she suggests that just being a survivor and seeing one’s progeny continuing one’s dreams is enough. It is not justice but that comes from continuing to tell stories like “Bones of Crows” so that those who were lost are not forgotten and those who made them suffer are not allowed to escape judgement.