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TIFF17 | Atwood’s Alias Grace Shares Irish Immigrants Harrowing Move to Toronto


Fresh off the heels of the critically acclaimed Handmaid’s Tale, audiences are certain to rave for Margaret Atwood’s newest page to screen transformation thanks to screenwriter Sarah Polley and director Mary Harron.

Alias Grace tells the story of teenaged servant Grace Marks – a kind of Canadian Lizzie Borden, who allegedly killed her wealthy employer and his housekeeper in Upper Canada in 1843. Years later, as the adult Grace untangles her story for a visiting doctor brought to assess her sanity, it becomes clear that the young woman has a series of secrets that she’s happy to tell.

Actress Sarah Gadon is the star of the show, offering a gripping performance that showcases the many hardships faced by a young Irish girl who suddenly finds herself transplanted in Toronto. After a harrowing sail across the Atlantic with her motherless family, Grace is cast out of the home by her abusive father when he forces her to find work. She quickly finds a job as a maid, tending to a wealthy family, where for the first time in her life she gets a taste of honest friendship and financial independence.

Alias Grace is packed with references to the beliefs and prejudices of the period, from Victorian spiritualism to anti-immigrant bigotry, though it’s the films spotlight on the plight of women that is its strongest suit. A thought provoking tale which allows its audience to reflect on a young woman’s worth.

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