REVIEW: Ruthless Souls

This review was provided by Zoë Mills from our Open Call for Film Critics & Writers! Buy your Festival pass or individual tickets to watch both these films on GFF On Demand. Please check out Zoë’s other review of Wintopia here!

Ruthless Souls

dir. Madison Thomas
2019 | Canada | 84 min.

Review by Zoë Mills

Jackalope “Jackie” Campbell stumbles around her studio, her hands falling into a routine of twisting metal, snuffing cigarettes, and lifting liquor bottles to her ready lips. Just when you think you’ve sussed out the choreography, Jackie turns, lights a joint with a blowtorch, and glares right into your sorry little face.

Jackie, a 27-year-old, Winnipeg-born Ojibwe artist, is not totally unfamiliar with facing a camera. She regularly records, and nervously fumbles through, doctor-mandated video diaries—a modern alternative to a shrink.

Through these diaries, Jackie grapples with the grief and guilt surrounding her partner’s death due to complications from a gender-affirming surgery. On the one-year anniversary of his passing, she learns that her two closest friends—who served as pillars during her rocky childhood—have called it quits after a decade of dating.

With this news, Jackie continues to tiptoe into each new day of life as if she’s walking over thin ice. In the thick of a Winnipeg winter, she shies away from reality, struggling to hold onto her fractured friendships and wary to welcome new ones—especially one with her oh-so flirty neighbour in apartment 4C.

Written and directed by Winnipeg’s Madison Thomas, Ruthless Souls is a film with a heartbeat. Heavy at its core, witty dialogue and a cast of lovable characters (brought to life by Mary Galloway, Eugene Baffoe, Liam Zarrillo, and Christy Taronno, among others) offer a comfortable balance.

The story pulls you in and feeds you a healthy serving of exactly what Jackie’s having. When Jackie is hungover, you’re hungover. When Jackie is ankle-deep in freezing water, you’re ankle-deep in freezing water. When Jackie wallflowers it at some underground gig in Osborne, you hope no one tries to chat.

This is Thomas’ second feature-length film after her 2013 drama, This Is Why We Fight. As co-owner of Prairie Kid Productions, she has written, directed, and produced numerous short films along the way.

With Ruthless Souls, Thomas has created a visually-alluring film that is artfully stitched together with clips of Winnipeg’s menacing trainyards, phone calls to Jackie’s delightful mother, quips from a too-honest figmental jackalope, and morsels of fuzzy, promising flashbacks.

Melding odd pieces together is what this film does best. In three parts, Jackie’s story proves that there is beauty in soldering together what you have. Even if you have a heavy name or a heavy past or heavy feelings, you don’t need to carry it gracefully every waking second. And you certainly don’t need to carry it alone.

You are allowed to take the love that you’re offered and create a family out of the people who prove themselves to you. This film goes to show that taking what bent-up metal you can find and creating something that is strong and sound and more than the sum of its parts is valid and brave and beautifully ruthless—something we must allow ourselves to be.