Splinters sticks with you | The Coast Halifax

Splinters sticks with you

Why you need to watch Thom Fitzgerald's Annapolis Valley-shot instant-classic at Neptune this week.

click to enlarge Splinters sticks with you
Film still
Sofia Banzhaf and Shelley Thompson (left) star in Thom Fitzgerald's 2018 film adaptation of Lee-Anne Poole's Fringe play of the same name.
Neptune Theatre, 1593 Argyle Street or stream online at neptuneathome.com
Daily until Nov 8, 8pm; Nov 7-8 4pm & 8pm
$10, neptunetheatre.com for tickets

It’s the sort of full-circle synergy that almost feels too much like a plot device to be real life. It's also a reminder that stories aren’t just told, but lived: A movie that is based on a play that is based on real life is showing at the city’s grandest live theatre. Yup, that’s right: You can see Halifax directorial titan Thom Fitzgerald’s 2018 stunner, Splinters, screening at Neptune Theatre until November 8. 

Based on a Fringe Festival play by Lee-Anne Poole (she's a mainstay of the city's indie theatre scene and, in the years since Splinters the play, the executive director of Halifax Fringe), Fitzgerald (known for directing queer-centric, internationally lauded cinema in Nova Scotia for decades) debuted the movie that year at TIFF, where it immediately drew favourable comparisons to his legendary debut, The Hanging Garden.

“When I saw the play, I was very taken with Lee-Anne’s very updated ideas about coming out. And I’m queer, so I know coming out is not a one-time event but a lifelong series of events, no matter what your sexual identity,” says Fitzgerald, speaking via Zoom. "But younger people now don’t think of sexual identity as something that’s fixed, so here’s a story of a girl who came out as a lesbian as a teenager but the way she sees herself has grown more nuanced as an adult. But she knows her mother will have a more simplistic view of human sexuality and she’s trying not to open Pandora’s Box again."

When asked about the comparisons between Splinters and The Hanging Garden, Fitzgerald says, “I think Lee-Anne Poole is a very different writer than I am. She has a unique story all her own. The story unfolds from a very different perspective generationally: It’s very contemporary point of view, I find. 

"Nonetheless, the commonalities are certainly there: It’s about an estranged 20-something going back home to rural Nova Scotia, for a ritual—in The Hanging Garden it’s a wedding and in Splinters it’s a funeral,” Fitzgerald adds. “And certainly both movies feature very complicated mothers and focus on the nuances and conflicts of mother-child relationships.”

And while it might feel like a lifted-from-a-script move to turn Neptune into a movie house while its season remains on pause, Fitzgerald says the move just made sense. “There’s no better venue in town than Neptune, so I figured if you can get the best, why not get the best. And they really did a great job making it into a movie theatre. There’s a 12K projector that is hanging from the balcony and a screen that goes pretty much across the Neptune stage,” he says. “We did two days of sound experimenting to get the best movie quality we could get, and I was just really impressed. It’s also the only movie theatre in town where you can bring your gin and tonic to your seat.”

There’s no time like now to support the spaces and stories that make Halifax amazing—and Fitzgerald knows this screening of Splinters will be just that. “This is about mother and child trying to come to terms with each other and to understand and respect each other as people, outside of their maternal relationship. And I think Sofia Banzhaf and Shelley Thompson do a beautiful job of showing us the moments where the characters awaken to each other as equals, as people.”