TIFF 2017: Cardinals Review


Canadian filmmakers, Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley, have created a perfect example of the journey being more important than the destination with Cardinals.

Sheila McCarthy plays Valerie Walker, a woman coming home to her two daughters and estranged husband after years in prison.  Before she can properly start reintegrating into the life she used to have, Valerie has to navigate co-existing with Mark (Noah Reid), the son of the man she killed.

Everyone delivers strong performances in this film but it’s the tension between Valerie and Mark that truly makes this journey worthwhile.  Every time these two characters interact the energy is increased exponentially.  Because the film clears up most of the mystery around why Mark loses his father and Valerie goes to prison, it’s important that the performances maintain the tension Moore and Shipley want you to feel throughout the film.  Mission accomplished!


Watching Sheila McCarthy reveal layer after layer of Valerie throughout the film is truly impressive.  Even a moment like Valerie’s first fast food order after being in prison is infused with such character building in the hands of McCarthy.  The way Noah Reid portrays Mark as a ticking bomb ready to go off is equally impressive.  Mark isn’t ever saying anything rude or aggressive but his intentions are perfectly clear in all of his scenes.

Not to be outdone, the supporting characters also provide satisfying arcs.  One of Valerie’s daughters (Grace Glowicki) doesn’t seem to know why things are so tense and attempts to befriend Mark.  The other daughter (Katie Boland) pleads with her mother to come clean about why she did what she did.  Valerie’s husband gets a lot across without saying much and Valerie’s parole officer does a great job of playing friendly as well as judicious.

Though I thought the end could have gone a bit further in terms of the audience getting the full story or even getting more insight into Valerie, everything that came before it made for such a satisfying journey I can’t fault the destination.