Tracey Berkowitz: “When a horse falls, foam comes out of its mouth. When it falls, the legs of the horse thrash and the horse is no good… So somebody shoots it. The horse turns into glue. A machine puts the glue into bottles and children squeeze the bottles to get the glue out and stick bits of paper onto cards. Glue gets on the children’s hands and the children eat the glue. And the children become the horse.”
The Tracey Fragments
Written and Directed by Bruce McDonald
Starring Ellen Page
Tracey Berkowitz is a 15 year old girl, alone, in her underwear, on a bus, wrapped in a curtain. Perhaps she should rethink her life a little. Over the course of The Tracey Fragments, she does. She recounts the events that lead her to this moment. It all started when her brother, Sonny, went missing. What makes matters worse is that Tracey was in charge of her Little brother’s well-being. Her deadbeat parents are furious and distraught. Tracey decides it is her responsibility and sneaks out to search for her sibling.
Knowing Bruce Mcdonald, The Tracey Fragments is likely more than meets the eye (and what meets the eye is incredible). I believe that in Tracey we have a symbolic 15 year old. Thanks to society, she has been desensitized and exposed to too much too soon. Like so many young people today, primarily girls, she has been stripped of her innocence and forced to mature, leaving a strange mix of experience, anger and naivete’. Sonny, her young brother, who, through flashbacks, we only see acting as a dog represents her lost innocence. The ensuing journey then, is the all too relatable wild goose chase to reclaim what is lost forever. Perhaps a simple concept, but the complex presentation heightens the effect.
The film is composed with multiple frames at once (think 24 but way more experimental). Occasionally there is only a small box somewhere onscreen. Sometimes the screen is full with many angles and even seperate scenes. The style takes some getting used to and isn’t always perfect. However, this is the first time I have seen this, and it is revolutionary. I certainly hope to see this built upon in the future.
As for the acting, the supporting players are apt but minor. The one, giant role in this movie is a superb performance from Oscar-nominee Ellen Page. Like many, I have seen a few of Page’s roles and am convinced of her award winning future. Tracey Berkowitz stands as Exhibit C for evidence of her immense talent, her surprising turn in Hard Candy being B and the now legendary Juno as A (however, I have been unable to see her genius in “An American Crime” as of yet). She is small and she is gargantuan, the somewhat provocative material appears to be a cakewalk for her. She suavely cusses without any minuscule sign of inhibition. Her eyes contain a remarkable vulnerability but there is power behind them, like a deceptive blue flame. I can not think of a better actress.
The Tracey Fragments is a successfully experimental film from legendary Canadian director, Bruce McDonald. It is certainly not for everyone. It is complex, and even with a 77 minute running time with multiple frames at once, the pacing requires patience and may deter most viewers. The moviegoer who appreciates more complex artistry should be more than satisfied. Powerful acting, interesting storytelling and original film making add up as quite the treat for the right audience. Such a tale of lost purity is all too poignant. Through Ellen Page’s creation of Tracey Berkowitz, we see a girl chewed up, swallowed, and spit back out, used to the furthest extent. What evokes the greatest sadness, however, is that we see within her some remaining innocence, but there are only fragments.