The Canadian indie drama Tru Love holds a lot of potential for melodrama, but it isn’t fussy about hitting every possible beat. For the most part this tale of a budding lesbian relationship between a commitment-phobic late-thirtysomething and a sixty year old widow is a loving and restrained look at patience, friendship, and family. It never really reinvents the wheel in terms of its dramatic beats, but its respectful, thoughtful, and boasts a trio of great leading performances.
Alice Beacon (Kate Trotter) is coming to Toronto to visit her workaholic lawyer daughter, Suzanne (Christine Horne), following the death of her husband (Peter MacNeill, glimpsed in visions Alice gets while alone). They’ve grown apart so greatly that Alice is met at her daughter’s house by her friend Tru (Shauna MacDonald, who co-directs and co-writes with Kate Johnston), a middle-aged serial dater who can’t commit to a job or a partner longer than a few months at a time. With Suzanne largely absent, Alice finds a new best friend and confidant in Tru, awakening feelings she had long repressed while married. Tru takes a cautious shine to Alice, as well, but when Suzanne finds out about their relationship being potentially being more than platonic, the daughter steps in to try and save her mother from heartbreak by any means necessary.
MacDonald and Johnston stick to the strengths of the story: lengthy, unpretentious interactions between a small handful of characters. It moves fast, and the wintry Toronto settings are captured stunningly by cinematographer Maya Bankovic. Some of the narrative beats feel a bit standard (particularly the film’s somewhat predictable conclusion), but that simplicity allow the actors to explore the depths of their characters to a greater degree.
As Tru, MacDonald is a sympathetic kind of lothario. She wants to change, but she’s been locked into one particularly self-destructive mindset for too long for anything meaningful to happen overnight. Horne does incredibly work as a daughter who can seemingly switch on and off when she cares that her mother is around. She’s still scarred by the loss of her father (who has similar tendencies and tics, as the film tells us), and she only comes to life when the happiness of her closest family member seems threatened.
Both get plenty to work with opposite Trotter, who gets a role that not too many people her age would be given. Not only does she get the chance to play a repressed, aging lesbian, but also a widower. It’s the latter that’s almost more surprising, since the relationship between the two is informed by an almost shared sense of grief and history between the characters. The romance and friendship come primarily from the subtext of what these people are feeling about everything they have already loved and lost. It seems that for older women of Alice’s generation, it has almost become more pitying to be viewed as a widow than as a lesbian. It almost doesn’t matter what Alice’s identifies as on a sexual level because she’s viewed societal as someone who will probably never find happiness again. MacDonald and Johnston turn a standard friendship and love story into a deeper look at the bonds that are formed when all seems lost.
Ultimately, though, the film’s greatest asset is its patience to allow the characters to become stronger and more defined throughout the course of the film. These women find themselves at different points in their lives, and all have a very well defined mental list of what they will and won’t put up with. That sense of attraction and distraction makes for a special little film.