Stellar: The Story Within the Stars

Directed by Darlene Naponse, Stellar is a whimsical love story between She (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) and He (Braeden Clarke), a young couple who meet in an underground bar in Northern Ontario. As the world bears witness to massive wildfires, flooding and destruction, the two remain safe within the confines of the tavern walls. Even so, while the two explore the potential of a future together, they must also deal with the horrors of the past as they unfurl around them.

With a poetic eye, Stellar is a beautiful piece which explores the trauma of the Indigenous population. Set entirely within the walls of one small bar, Stellar‘s narrative feels as though it wants to unravel the grand narrative of history. By delving into conversations surrounding white privilege, education inequity, violence and even residential schools, the film highlights the damage that has been done to the First Nations people over the centuries.

Among the more noteworthy aspects of the film are its visuals. Taking pages out of Terrence Malick and Darren Aronofsky, Stellar uses its visuals to explore complex metaphors that unfold the narrative questions of the indigenous population. Featuring an immersive style that blurs narrative lines, the film makes connections between the soul of the indigenous population and the natural world. Naponse uses this unique form of storytelling to depict the ebb and flow of time, giving the story a sense of uprising and inevitability.

Led by a solid performance by Elle-Maija Tailfeather, Stellar is a surprisingly quiet film yet it hides a bubbling crockpot of fury. As this young woman and man (simply named ‘She’ and ‘He’) sit at the bar together, the world burns around them. In many ways, their time here feels as though it’s both a place of refuge and empowerment. There’s a genuine sense that their time is coming, even as they wait patiently in the midst of the chaos. (‘What’s going on out there?,’ a stranger yells. ‘Change,’ they simply respond.) 

What’s more, Stellar also becomes a quest for identity as this couple learn to own their heritage in the face of history. They live in a world of disrespect and yet they have grown a deeper appreciation for their identity. As they become more confident in the events of their story, they find strength within themselves, despite the criticisms of others. Their time within this bar is more than a time of connection. 

It’s also a calling into the future.

While the film’s slow pacing and lyrical visuals will undoubtedly frustrate some viewers, Stellar is a film that will demand a response. The truth of the matter is that this is a film with something to say and requires an attentive ear (and eye). However, for those who are willing to humble their hearts and allow themselves to be immersed within it, there’s no doubt that Stellar will take them on a journey that they will not forget.

Stellar is available in theatres on Friday, April 21st, 2023.

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