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Film Review: ‘Scarborough’ (dir. Shasha Nakhai + Rich Williamson) | TIFF 2021

This is going to sound super abstract, but Scarborough is a film about what it means to be human. It’s so real that it’s unreal. Realer than life. There is a whole world within this film. I grew so attached to these characters, and I went on the emotional rollercoaster that these characters took me on. 

We meet our characters in the fall and accompany them through the school year until they’re out for the summer. As I’m sure you know, a lot can happen in a school year. A lot happens in Scarborough. It’s the kind of film that’s challenging to explain and articulate in a simple summary. It deserves so much more than that.

This is going to sound super abstract, but Scarborough is a film about what it means to be human. It’s so real that it’s unreal. Realer than life. There is a whole world within this film. I grew so attached to these characters, and I went on the emotional rollercoaster that these characters took me on. 

Framing things through a child’s eyes and also through the adults’ eyes makes for a striking contrast. There is a freedom that comes with being a child, which is ironic since kids have some of the least freedom of anybody. Drawing a picture just because, eating Cheerios, and thinking about their favorite TV show. They’re still amazed by the little things in life. They aren’t bombarded by responsibility or leadership. That falls on their parents. We also get to see how things play out through their eyes. The struggles of raising a family, keeping everyone functioning, getting children to and from school, and doing it all at once. Scarborough perfectly teeters back and forth by balancing both points of view.

I never wanted these two-and-a-half hours to end. For the duration of this film, I totally escaped from my own life and was entirely invested in the families followed in this film. I can’t believe I’m going to put myself through this over and over again as I proceed to rewatch this on repeat in the future.

I was rooting for certain characters to succeed. I was more enraged with other characters than I care to admit. I felt sympathetic toward these characters as if they were people I knew in real life. If you can get me that attached, I think that’s the mark of a truly great body of work.

I just kept crying. I cried out of happiness, I cried out of sadness, I cried out of joy. It’s so, so heartbreaking, but in the best of ways. These children are so innocent and at their most vulnerable, so seeing them go through their struggles and face the hardships they face hits especially hard.

While we’re struggling through a time that lacks the amount of human connection we all so desperately crave right now, Scarborough offers its audience just that. Enveloping its viewers inside reality and proving that the real world often offers more interesting stories than what we are able to dream up sometimes.

Even in moments where there is no dialogue — maybe even especially in those moments — there is such a level of honesty and emotion being exuded. The silence captures so much with the documentary-like shots and 

Capturing the one-of-a-kind sentiment that only a child could express or feel is so difficult, but it is so successful here in conveying young excitement, anxiety, sadness, pain, and happiness. Scarborough reminded me of 2019’s Rocks, which similarly starred several relatively unknown actors — both young and old — who are beyond exceptional.

There are so many forgotten communities out there just like this one with people scraping by with very little hope and no help. It is so disheartening to see people struggling to do the bare minimum and feel like they’re being punished for it. Scarborough is a special coming-of-age story that draws out the purest humanity that can come from a child and a parent and the experience that comes with growing up while facing immense struggle.

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