Poignant (2016)


Canada. 2016.


Director – Jaspreet Kaur, Screenplay – Prabhjot Bhangu & Jaspreet Kaur, Producer – Prabhjot Bhangu, Photography – Cliff Hokanson, Music – Soyug Chun, Production Design – Woeste Dallas. Production Company – J&J Productions


Laura Mitchell (Amy Hunter), Steve Baran (Mathew), Eric Schweig (Detective Ruben Martin), Gemma Martini (Melissa), Corinna Rennie (Tanya), Mia Fiona Kul (Bella Marshall), Emily Bandel (Maggie)


Amy and three friends visit a building that they are thinking of buying but Melissa senses that something bad has occurred there. Afterwards, all of them are haunted by mysterious things. Amy returns to ascertain if she might have imagined it. Instead, she is drawn in by the ghost of a girl who was raped and murdered there and is crying out to her to bring her attackers to justice.

Jaspreet Kaur is a newcomer director, a woman of East Indian background born and raised in Canada. Poignant was shot in British Columbia (made up with US flags dotted throughout to suggest it is America). Much of the financing and film crew appears to come from the local East Indian community.

Jaspreet Kaur claims that she was inspired by the disappearance of a local girl. Given the film’s lack of details to support this, this could have been no more than a headline Kaur read in a newspaper. Certainly, the number of instances of police relying on psychics to solve missing persons cases is far less than tabloid media would have it, while the actual recorded number of cases solved by such methods is generally around about zero or closely equal to the number you would get by relying on pure chance. Poignant‘s relevance as a true crime story ranks down about the same percentile.

What we get in actuality is no more than a standard ghost story. And a very standard one it gets too. There have been a plethora of made-for-dvd ghost stories coming out in the last few years so much so that they slip into a tedious sameness. For someone like me who has to review them, they have started to morph into a near-indistinguishable blur, especially some of the ones that have come out after Insidious (2010) and sequels that all try to appropriate some kind of diabolical adjective as a title. (It is hard to tell if Poignant has been intended the same way – it is a ghost story with a single word adjective title but in actuality ‘poignant’ means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “evoking a sense of sadness or regret” and seems more a title that should be used to suggest a weepily nostalgic romantic drama).

It feels as though Poignant is a film in which not a single directorial set-up, not a single piece of plotting, a single sound effect or musical cue, does not feel like a cliche inherited from one of the numerous others ghost stories that litter the dvd remainder bins. Everything in the film is utterly standard – from the dreams and apparitions and the scenes where everyone think the heroine is going crazy to the mid-film bait and switch where we initially go from something scary to a murder mystery where the dead are calling out to the living in the present to have their crime solved.

It is frustrating feeling as though you are watching a film where the director and writers seem utterly oblivious to the fact that what they are doing is treading a path that is so tediously worn you can predict every single move. It is a long time I have seen a film that is so deficient in originality or imagination. Not to mention one where the cast seem to be straining to find something to do and say.

(Screening Courtesy of the Rio Grind Festival)

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