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The Maiden Review

by Daniel Reynolds
3.5 out of 5.0 stars

When two teens in writer-director Graham Foy’s The Maiden discover a dead black cat, it scans as a too-obvious symbol of what’s to come. While much is left unspoken in the film, this foreboding atmosphere confirms that something bad will happen. That this unfair comeuppance arrives early is a shock. However, rather than shrink the film, Foy’s work only deepens, expanding a straightforward coming-of-age narrative into something far more elusive—and confounding.

Set along the edges of Calgary—wilderness being tamed by new subdivision construction—The Maiden centres on two teen boys, before introducing a young girl from the same school. The boys, Kyle (Jackson Sluiter) and Colton (Marcel T. Jiménez), are outsiders who spend their time idly skateboarding around before tragedy strikes. Both are also first-time actors whose performances (particularly that of River Phoenix-lookalike Sluiter) spring directly from the ground on which they stand. Kyle’s graffiti tag “Maiden” is seen throughout, an “I was here” marker that works as a prominent—and haunting—symbol for the film. In its second half, we watch as Whitney (Hayley Ness, also making her debut) goes on a wandering tour of her own, before reconnecting with the boys and closing the loop on the film’s tale of grief. It sounds simple, especially with its teen drama trappings, yet Foy, aided by ace cinematography from Kelly Jeffrey, conjures something ineffable in his film’s best moments. As a result, there is both everyday tedium and total mystery here, with the border between the two made as fuzzy as possible.

As with the actions of his young characters, Foy’s sense of discovery in The Maiden is beguiling. Similarly, his film drifts along more than it should, losing its way a bit before reaching actualization. Still, it does deliver sublime images that exceed their modest framing. Yes, the black cat eventually returns, but as something different by the end. True to the film’s nature, it becomes a symbol both dead and alive, watching as life continues to roll on.

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