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responst to Pieces of April

By Linda Tiessen Wiebe

Pieces of April Movie PosterWE LONG TO
be whole, but as we move through life we inevitably lose parts of ourselves along the way. And consciously or not, we spend our lives trying to tie the pieces back together. Peter Hedge’s movie, Pieces of April, reflects this torturous journey in the poignant story of a white middle-class family barely holding together at the seams. They are en route to a Thanksgiving dinner being prepared by the estranged eldest daughter, April. The movie’s backdrop is the memory of the first Thanksgiving, when outsiders to North America gathered in gratitude for unlikely friendship. Echoes of mutuality, unlikely community, and hope in limitation wind through the film, with undercurrents of outsiders becoming oppressors and the meaning of forgiveness.

April and her family pay the price of being white and privileged. They are ambitious, image-oriented individualists who have trouble being honest and finding community. Her sister, Beth, is obsessively helpful and brother Jason escapes the chaos through his camera. Grandma lives in a seniors’ home and can’t remember them, or maybe she doesn’t want to. And her father, Jim, can’t give up trying to be peacemaker. Joy, the mother, wrestling with her own encounter with death, randomly sprays emotional shrapnel during the lengthy car ride from suburb to city-centre. The car is filled with animosity and bitterness.

Meanwhile, April begins the odyssey of making her first Thanksgiving meal. Tattooed hands take virgin stabs at mashing uncooked potatoes. A pierce-decorated face tears up over onions. And her boyfriend Bobbie gently cajoles her as waves of family dread threaten to abort the meal. They are an unlikely couple in the slums: a bratty white bad girl and a black boy who’s found his heart. Being in love, they are trying to turn over a new leaf. As Bobbie leaves to run a mysterious errand, April starts to cook the turkey, only to find her oven doesn’t work.

Bobbie’s world is only too familiar with disappointment, limitation and bias. April is here only because of Bobbie; it’s her first permanent address away from home, a life away from drugs, and an attempt to build a home together. There is something life-changing in their young relationship. Bobbie knows this attempt at reconciliation with her family is critical for April. April learns to let her guard down and let Bobbie help her. And Bobbie’s mysterious errand is not the drug deal you expect. As he’s trying on suits in a Salvation Army store, he tries to explain to his friend the power of love that makes you do things you never thought possible.

April in the Kitchen
As April looks for a neighbour willing to share an oven, she encounters the guardedness of those trying to stay human amidst echoes of drug deals and easy escape. The door with the Jesus picture stays mute. Fellow punkers walk by without even a glance. The vegan at first agrees, but then balks at the thought of meat smells in her oven. The Chinese family doesn’t speak English. And Eugene and Evette laugh mockingly at the irony of a white girl needing the help of their “poor black asses”. An unlikely community.


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