Reviews of movies and TV focused on women

Review: Through Black Spruce

Tanaya Beatty in Through Black Spruce

Through Black Spruce, also known as simply Black Spruce, tells the story of a Cree family in northern Canada as they struggle with loss and dangerous threats.

Through Black Spruce has two major storylines. Annie Bird (Tanaya Beatty) is a twin. She lives in her northern Ontario home with her family. Annie lives a traditional life, hunting and fishing.

Her twin sister Suzanne went to Toronto, became a successful model, and got caught up with drugs and drug dealers.

No one has heard from Suzanne in months. Annie’s mother, Lisette (Tina Keeper) is worried and frightened. Annie goes to Toronto to search for her sister.

The other major story involves Annie’s uncle Will (Brandon Oakes). He has a big load of guilt and grief to deal with. He tries to do that by drinking too much.

Brandon Oakes and Tanaya Beatty in Through Black Spruce

The way these two plot lines intersect is drugs. The people at home that Suzanne helped moved drugs, and the people in Toronto that Suzanne knew who sold drugs have a common goal. Find Suzanne and get the money owed them.

When they can’t find Suzanne, they come after Annie and Will.

We know that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of indigenous women are missing in both Canada and the U.S. Native women are killed at a disproportionate rate and no one seems to care. The most striking image in Through Black Spruce was Annie in Toronto staring at a bulletin board with posters looking for missing women. I think this bulletin board could have much bigger than it was, with many more posters. Even so, it made the point.

Native storytelling isn’t like the white version of stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Three acts and you’re done. Expect things not to be fully resolved at the end of the movie. It’s okay. I thought this was a very good film.

Tanaya Beatty is always compelling in everything she does. She’s magnetic. Brandon Oakes is also excellent in his role.

The film is mostly in English, with some native language used – I presume Cree but don’t know for sure.

poster for through black spruce

Here’s the trailer. The film is available on Prime Video and a number of other streamers.

Have you seen this film? What did you think of it?

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6 responses to “Review: Through Black Spruce”

  1. It’s not that no one cares about the aboriginal women going missing. It’s the sheer inaccessibility in most cases.

    There is no internet or phone service to most of Canada. You have to fly in to most communities. What would you do when you got there?

    There are no hotels, so bring a tent and enough food and clothing to last until you can get out.

    Then there’s the flies and mosquitoes. Cold, no amenities. There are tremendous amount of issues that don’t apply in southern communities.

    Who is murdering those women? Their own men. But which ones?

    These crimes are far harder to solve in most cases than a movie whodunnit.

    • Inaccessibility may apply in northern Canada, but not Toronto. Like the #BLM situation in the U.S. where the underlying issue is racism, I think racism also affects the lack of success in finding and prosecuting the people who get away with killing native women like they don’t matter.

      • Native women are not being murdered in Toronto. Not to say it could not happen.

        The murders mostly happen where it’s easy to dispose of a body.

        Vancouver for instance is much easier because you have so many options for body disposal. Harder in Winnipeg until winter. Then you have endless fields and unlimited snow cover.

        Outside of urban areas, Canada is empty and policed by a lot of racist RCMP who are mostly fed up with “drunken Indians”.

        Alcoholism is a huge factor as is boredom and probably drugs. I’m no expert on this by any means but I’ve seen the conditions first hand.

        Native women anywhere when impacted by European culture and attendant problems are easy targets and sitting ducks.

        I don’t see any solution to this tragedy.

        The racism card may help with some police forces but that won’t protect them from their friends and relatives.

  2. I cannot believe the blatant disregard for Native women. The comments about the disposal of bodies cannot happen in certain parts of Canada are absurd. The fact of the matter is no one is looking for these missing women. Certainly women of every racial, social, economic background can go missing. These crimes are committed because the kidnappers know that they can essentially get away with it. Native women are still women regardless of race. These women deserve to be looked for and their cases solved. The hurt and pain their families are going through should not be a taboo subject. The atrocities committed to the indigenous people of these supposed United States and Canada are abhorrent to us all. Racism cannot be excluded from these atrocities. Certain ethnic backgrounds are not considered people and as repulsed as I am to say that is why these crimes are going unsolved. Their lives matter- #NativeAndProud

    • This film didn’t bring much attention to the topic. I’m hoping the new TV series Alaska Daily will bring missing indigeneous women into national awareness so some changes are made.

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