This film that bills itself as an Indigenous love story set in Northern Ontario is so much more than that. Stellar is a story about the connections between humans, nature and history that come together in a quiet film full of enchanting art and surrealism.
On a quiet night in the aforementioned Northern Ontario, She (the always remarkable Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) and He (Braeden Clarke) meet in an unassuming bar. While the two slowly feel out their connection, a storm is brewing outside. In an almost dream-like state, She and He learn about one another and explore their attraction as people come rushing into the bar and leave just as quickly. Only She and He remain, completely unbothered by nature’s flow.
Very little is said between She and He. Their meeting plays out primarily through movement, music and touch. Director Darlene Naponse and her cinematographer Mathieu Séguin zoom in close on She and He and their interactions; the material of Her clothing and the patina of water on Him after he returns from the ocean feel visceral and tactile. One aspect that greatly elevates Stellar is the beautiful jukebox music that floods the bar. Each song is unique and captures a different stage of She and He’s growing bond — from Buffy Sainte-Marie to Jeremy Dutcher to Alanis Obomsawin, some great Indigenous musical talent helps paint Stellar’s story.
For a film that keeps the dialogue limited, a lot is being spoken about. Naponse touches on environmental themes, Canada’s colonial history, feminism and the racial climate of today. Some topics are talked about louder than others, but each is given its moment and ties in organically with the unfolding love story before us. Stellar is truly poetry in motion.
Stellar screens as part of TIFF 2022, which runs from September 8 to 18. Head here for more from the festival.