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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.12.19] Canada drama

I love a good, heavy drama that explores the big questions of life. With his third feature Guilt, writer/director Onur Karaman takes a stab at exploring the question of "what is evil" by telling two loosely connected stories to explore the topic.

In one, we have Sylvio Arriola as Frederic, a college philosophy professor in search of romance who harbours an unhealthy, and frankly a little gross, attraction to one of his students. He seems largely uninterested and disengaged from the class and the feeling from the students seems mutual with most of them paying little attention to Frederic's droning on about the difference between internal and external morality.

The second, and far more interesting story, focuses on Isa (Emilie L. Cote), a hard-headed teenager unhappy with the new living arrangements after her mother moved them into her new boyfriend's home. She rebels by befriending a much older man named Jynx (Solo Fugere; brilliant as a sleazy pimp) who is manipulating the teenager under the guise of a romantic relationship in order to recruit her into his prostitution ring.

The connection between the stories is so thin, it may as well be non-existent: Isa's mother Lose (Isabelle Guerard) works at the college where Frederic teaches and at a point in the movie, Frederic asks her out. This comes very late in Guilt's third act so for most of the running time, it's not clear how the stories are related and even after the encounter, the connection remains vague as Frederic and Isa are dealing with two very different situations.

The drama of Isa's life is the highlight of Guilt but the story is underdeveloped. Whether it was underdeveloped to make room for Frederic's story or if the college professor plot was developed to pad Isa's story is unclear but the result is the same. While Karaman touches on themes of family dynamics, abuse, and human trafficking, the film never fully explores any of those themes in a significant way. Karaman also introduces a subplot of sexual abuse... maybe? The idea is thrown into the mix but, as with many of the movie's other threads, unexplored.

While I appreciate that Karaman is attempting to tackle big, complicated themes by telling two small stories, Guilt never coalesces into a coherent package and I felt like Karaman was taunting me, introducing ideas and half developing them before moving to the next thing and in the end, leaving more questions than answers.

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