Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon take on Miriam Toews’ famous book ‘All My Puny Sorrows’

Miriam Toews’ famous novel has been adapted into a film with the hard-hitting impact All my little sorrowsstarring Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon, in theaters in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on April 15 after debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

“In the history of mankind, has there ever been a more obvious truth than the statement, we are all going to die?” says the voiceover at the start of the film. “And yet, in our bones, how many of us can actually conceptualize death, understand it?

Yoli (Pill) tries to stay motivated in her writing career, while trying to get through her divorce from her daughter’s father. Yoli receives a call from her mother, played by Mare Winningham, that her sister Elf (Gadon), an acclaimed pianist, has attempted suicide, 10 years after their father’s suicide.

As Yoli rushes to be by her family’s side, she has flashbacks to her upbringing in the Mennonite community and the stresses of that experience, including the pushback her parents and sister faced when Elf wanted leave the community to go to university to study music, for example.

“I want to die, it’s not a mistake,” Elf tells her sister when Yoli arrives at the hospital.

Left to right: Sarah Gadon and Alison Pill in a scene from All My Puny Sorrows, directed by Michael McGowan. (Image courtesy of AMPS Productions Inc.)

“Lightness in the Face of Despair”

The family having a long history of suicide, All my little sorrows highlights thought-provoking questions not only about death, but also about depression and relationships with religion, all with that dry humor that will always have you laughing amidst the seriousness of the subject, which really gives to the film a more realistic experience as a viewer.

“I think what turned me on was that combination of fierce love and serious humor, and levity in the face of despair,” Alison Pill said. Yahoo Canada. “Also, playing an interesting kind of mother and an interesting kind of daughter, and an interesting kind of sister, looking at these different sides of this complicated woman in a really honest way.”

Sarah Gadon said she was definitely in a phase of reading all of Miriam Toews’ work and was particularly enthusiastic about the characters in her novels.

“She’s always exploring the female experience as it’s woven into the family dynamic,” the actor said. “It was so fascinating to me because we have these people in our families, and we don’t choose who they are, and they do things, and then all of a sudden our whole life experience is filtered through these people and through their choices.”

“Miriam has a great way of exploring that, as Alison said, with intensity and darkness, but also with silly humor, and her humor is so Canadian, it’s so dry and silly.”

For filmmaker Michael McGowan, what drew him to the book, bringing him into the process of adapting it to film, was that it wasn’t just a ‘dark’, ‘dark’ journey and “difficult”.

“It’s a difficult film but there are definitely moments of hope and lightness and brightness, and I think the juxtaposition of extreme sadness with humor is what she did so well in the book, which I tried to do,” McGowan said.

Left to right: Mare Winningham and Alison Pill in All My Puny Sorrows.  (Image courtesy of AMPS Productions Inc.)

Left to right: Mare Winningham and Alison Pill in All My Puny Sorrows. (Image courtesy of AMPS Productions Inc.)

The “heart” of “All My Puny Sorrows”

Some of the best scenes from All my little sorrows are fairly straightforward in terms of setup, often just Yoli and Elf having a discussion (sometimes more angrily than other times), to the point where it almost feels like watching a room.

“I think we worked the most on the hospital scenes between Sarah and me because they’re like little plays, and I really wanted to rehearse them and figure out exactly what each of them had to say to move the story forward, to move the character forward,” Alison Pill explained. “You’re in this hospital room, so you understand the power of choosing one seat over another, of sitting on one bad seat over another, of being closer, of being far away when you you’re in this kind of small room, all these little things add up to a much bigger picture.

“These scenes were central to the film where, if they worked, the film and the trip would work.”

All My Puny Sorrows hits theaters in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on April 15, in Winnipeg on April 22, and in other cities throughout the spring.

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