LONG TO be whole, but as we move through life we inevitably
lose parts of ourselves along the way. And consciously or not, we spend
our lives trying to tie the pieces back together. Peter Hedge’s
movie, Pieces of April, reflects this torturous journey in
the poignant story of a white middle-class family barely holding together
at the seams. They are en route to a Thanksgiving dinner being prepared
by the estranged eldest daughter, April. The movie’s backdrop
is the memory of the first Thanksgiving, when outsiders to North America
gathered in gratitude for unlikely friendship. Echoes of mutuality,
unlikely community, and hope in limitation wind through the film, with
undercurrents of outsiders becoming oppressors and the meaning of forgiveness.
April and her family pay the price of being white and privileged. They
are ambitious, image-oriented individualists who have trouble being
honest and finding community. Her sister, Beth, is obsessively helpful
and brother Jason escapes the chaos through his camera. Grandma lives
in a seniors’ home and can’t remember them, or maybe she
doesn’t want to. And her father, Jim, can’t give up trying
to be peacemaker. Joy, the mother, wrestling with her own encounter
with death, randomly sprays emotional shrapnel during the lengthy car
ride from suburb to city-centre. The car is filled with animosity and
Meanwhile, April begins the odyssey of making her first Thanksgiving
meal. Tattooed hands take virgin stabs at mashing uncooked potatoes.
A pierce-decorated face tears up over onions. And her boyfriend Bobbie
gently cajoles her as waves of family dread threaten to abort the meal.
They are an unlikely couple in the slums: a bratty white bad girl and
a black boy who’s found his heart. Being in love, they are trying
to turn over a new leaf. As Bobbie leaves to run a mysterious errand,
April starts to cook the turkey, only to find her oven doesn’t
Bobbie’s world is only too familiar with disappointment, limitation
and bias. April is here only because of Bobbie; it’s her first
permanent address away from home, a life away from drugs, and an attempt
to build a home together. There is something life-changing in their
young relationship. Bobbie knows this attempt at reconciliation with
her family is critical for April. April learns to let her guard down
and let Bobbie help her. And Bobbie’s mysterious errand is not
the drug deal you expect. As he’s trying on suits in a Salvation
Army store, he tries to explain to his friend the power of love that
makes you do things you never thought possible.
As April looks
for a neighbour willing to share an oven, she encounters the guardedness
of those trying to stay human amidst echoes of drug deals and easy escape.
The door with the Jesus picture stays mute. Fellow punkers walk by without
even a glance. The vegan at first agrees, but then balks at the thought
of meat smells in her oven. The Chinese family doesn’t speak English.
And Eugene and Evette laugh mockingly at the irony of a white girl needing
the help of their “poor black asses”. An unlikely community.