They Who Surround Us (2020) Poster

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5/10
Poor script!!
li090442620 November 2021
The plot for "They who surround us" is weak and the direction does not help much. The movie goes back and forth with past and present and does not develop from that. The script is shallow and we do not have a sense or feel of the pain the main character is going through. We see the images but not the feeling. Troy Ruptash is a good actor, but his direction falls short.

The could be an hour movie long.
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4/10
Canadian film makers just don't get it
SpareMeTheCrapMovies22 October 2021
Half hour in and there is no plot, no character dynamics, and dragged out scenes. When are Canadians going to stop producing crap films like this? If you are suffering from insomnia, this film is a sure cure.
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6/10
Promising, with Reservations
prostrateconstantly1 September 2021
There is commendable material in this film: Ali Liebert is a strong screen presence and effectively grounds each scene she's in, and some sequences, such as the ghost farewell scenes near the end of the film, convey an unguarded and inspiring emotionalism that's executed with surprising conviction. On the whole, I find it admirable to try and craft something this strangely ambitious in its time-jumping structuring and (in its strongest portions) go-for-broke earnestness as a debut.

However, I think writer/director/star Troy Ruptash succumbs to insecurity in presenting this vision. This is best exemplified in his performance, which feels choreographed in his held glances, deflections, and outbursts as an emulation of depictions of grief he has seen in previous media rather than a personal sensitivity on his part. This feeling comes about due to his performance alternating between two extreme registers of closed off denial and mania, which both feel unrealistic and make his progression, which is the backbone of the film's structuring, come across as feeling arbitrary rather than cathartic. This insecurity in presentation is further reflected in the film's cinematography, which jumps from car commercial gloss in the flashback and nature sequences, to arthouse textural closeups, to conventional shot reverse shot in dialogue sequences on a dime. This contributes to the feeling that the look of the film was more dependent on thinking "what would a professional movie do" on each specific sequence rather than preserving a cohesive aesthetic perspective overall. The film's worst tendencies come to a head in the war flashbacks, which succumbs to the most basic "serious war film" cliches which I also fear try to "elevate" the central emotional arc by exploiting preconception rather than through the conviction the film's best sequences convey (and brings closer to reality the terrifying notion that Passchendaele is the most influential Canadian film ever made). For Ruptash to use his sensibility to the best of its potential going forward, I would recommend dialing back his ambitions a bit and honing in on something smaller that he has direct, compulsive insight into. This will allow him to ensure each piece of his work is in tune with that guiding sensitivity, and remove the feeling of insecure emulation and disjoint that this work can suffer from. I also think this film's worst parts come from a fear that a wider audience may lose the interest to take the film seriously. If Ruptash can abandon those notions and collaborate with people with like-minded sensibilities and compulsions, a much more effective work will result.

Overall though I'm happy to see something I can write at this length about coming out of my old hometown of Vegreville, and for a debut's worst flaw to be insecurity is definitely not the worst case scenario. I hope Ruptash can find a stronger individual sensitivity in his next work as well as the courage to embrace his best tendencies.
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8/10
Quite an effecting film
mskilling-6388413 October 2021
A quite effecting study of a grief struck, but taciturn, man, and, we learn, loving father. The beauty of Alberta is stunningly portrayed, as are the horrors inflicted on Ukrainians during -- what I presume is, although it is interestingly kept somewhat ambiguous -- the recapture, by vengeful Soviet forces, of territory taken by the Nazis previously. I found, however, the apparitions, in present times, of lost love ones to be occasionally a bit jarring, breaking with what was otherwise the otherworldly, Malick-like, cinematography and excellent character development. That said, an impressive piece of work.
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10/10
Excellent Film, Rivals Ingmar Bergman
richard-606448 September 2021
Hello Troy: Saw your film with my wife Bonnie at the Capitol last Saturday as a birthday treat. We both loved it and it reminded both of us of the best of Ingmar Bergman, as it is a great portrayal of someone undergoing PTSD. And we loved the way you make the viewer think the 'inciting incident' in the story happened in a particular way, when it fact it's totally different -- a shocker! The performances were great and the cinematography was fantastic. Congratulations!
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10/10
Excellent!
neufeld-712061 September 2021
Warning: Spoilers
A very real look at grief and tragedy, love the true representation of Alberta and my Ukrainian heritage!

Being born and raised in Alberta, the struggles of immigrants (including my grandparents) is something my generation born here don't understand. This movie does a great job of going deep into the life of the main character Roman's struggle with losing his wife and the fallout from that

I also enjoy that the movie takes place only 2 weeks after this tragedy which adds to the realism and visceral nature of Roman's behaviour.
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10/10
A Love Song to Memory, Hope, and Courage
bcjcw5 September 2021
Though this viewer was familiar with all the locations, it was wonderful to be seeing the landscape as if for the first time. The cinematography lovingly portrayed the moment in time that was the crisis for this man and his family. It was able to hold and convey the promise and gift that the prairies of Canada represented to generations past, as well as the hope and commitment of their descendants in sustaining those visions born of struggle and pain. Images, words and songs wove together what was gone and what is yet to come in beautiful haunting melodies. The cries of a father reaching out, and yet inarticulate in his grief were very real reactions, and the unease of his family as they sought to help was poignant. In the land itself, and in the patterns of life shared as family traditions, it is possible to be held and healed.
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10/10
Masterful
jelgie-871385 September 2021
This film portrays grief and trauma in a beautifully told story woven between Roman's past and present. Filmed in Alberta, the cinematography is stunning and adds to the mood of the movie. Troy's portrayal of Roman is profoundly moving and the relatable to anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one.
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8/10
Iconic storytelling
homeontherange-127945 September 2021
If you've never lived n the prairies, you are in for a full tour. The footage of fields and farms and small town Ukrainian Canadian prairie life in the late 80's is stunning and full of reminisce. The story is both a classic family history for many of the Ukrainian diaspora and a story of personal tragedy. A stand out is the actress playing the aunt- her looks speak moe than words. It is a moving and beautiful film telling a unique Ukrainian Canadian story.
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10/10
A definite must see!
ewaschuk5 September 2021
A brilliantly written story where the grief from a mans past collides with his present. Awesome performance by Troy and the rest of the cast!!
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10/10
Poignant, relevant and important!
mcpeev5 September 2021
This movie has it all music, believable acting. Cinematography, and a well written story, This move presents a realistic view into how painful memories of our past affect our present and give us courage to face the future.
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10/10
Heartfelt and Moving film
dhackman-328566 September 2021
From beginning to end this film captured my attention by transporting me into my culture. It's was like I was in church hearing the choir and smelling the incense of the priests "kadela". Such a well crafted story. Beautiful cinematography. I found myself really reflecting on my own losses/grief especially during the times when the film viewed countryside, driving scenes and quiet scenes. Very powerful moments all tying the movie together. Such a well timed movie in light of world events and the importance of family. Not just immediate family but for our families who came before us. Excellent,'excellent film. Thank you Troy for highlighting your exquisite talents of acting,'directing and producing.
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10/10
I was moved
annszyptur6 September 2021
This was a beautiful tale depicting the grief of a survivor of WW II, and the impact on the people around him when he again confronts grief. It also provides a good understanding of the impact over a generation.
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9/10
Beautiful Piece of Work!
lmkarenko6 September 2021
I was raised on a farm not far from Vegreville so aside from the touching account of our Ukrainian beginnings, this was a wonderful reflection of memories from my youth.

Troy Ruptash portrays his character with such realism and heart that at times, I forgot I was watching a movie. Brilliant!

The young boy in the movie who played young Roman, Pierce Briggs, is a definite up and comer! He was great!!

The cinematography was amazing in this film. The prairie landscape was breathtaking.

Thank you for bringing rural Alberta to the big screen. I look forward to more and more, Troy!
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10/10
Mesmerizing from the first moment to the last
gpasmeny30 September 2021
This film should not be missed by any Albertan who wants to better understand our rich Ukrainian heritage and how each of us behaves in context to our personal histories. In support of Troy Ruptash, originally from Vegreville and who's done an extraordinary job of showcasing Alberta in this mesmerizing film.
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9/10
Beautiful cinematography of rural Alberta
joypottery6 November 2021
I got to watch They Who Surround Us when it played in Toronto in September 2021.

On the surface it is a simple story of the repercussions of a death on a family but there is much more below the surface.

The setting & culture, (Ukrainian Canadians in Alberta in the 80's) is something I haven't seen in film before.

The cinematography, especially in the flashbacks is hauntingly beautiful & reminiscent of the Andrei Tarkovsky films I have seen & loved.

The story unravels slowly & subtly & waits until the end to connect all the dots in the different timelines.

I & my family, including my 11 year old, really enjoyed it.
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10/10
Atom Egoyan agrees with me!!!
craigrichey-590-9976785 September 2021
So, full disclosure here - I am the composer on this film, and in response to what appears to be an almost vengeful review below, which lacks both a nuanced understanding of the film and any sort of authority that would convey the writer knows what he is talking about - here is what the genius Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan had to say:

'A sensitive and complex study of grief, as it filters through a family and echoes in historic memory. Centred on a riveting performance by Troy Ruptash, who makes his directorial debut with this ambitious film.'

I think I'll trust Atom Egoyan's opinion on this, and the many many audience members across Canada who have written and expressed how deeply moved they have been by this film.
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10/10
Tarkovsy and Malick would be proud!!!
jackiekatzman-896-5445615 September 2021
To say that I was deeply moved by this exquisite film would be an understatement. This film took me not just on the character's journey but also invited me to go on a journey inward, bringing up profound emotions within and gifting me the chance to process much of my own unresolved grief. I feel like Andre Tarkovsky would be proud of Troy Ruptash in how he communicates the human struggle through magical realism and the acute detail to the heartbreaking beauty of everyday life and everyday people longing to heal and connect. I can't get this film out of my head. It's been a cinematic gift for me, and I imagine others will find this to be true as well. Bravo to the director and everyone who worked on They Who Surround Us.
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10/10
Beautiful storytelling
clairebriggs-083165 September 2021
They Who Surrounds Us unfolds slowly and beautifully as it takes the audience through one man's descent into and rise out of grief. The contrast between the 1943 Ukraine flashbacks to the present (1987) is artfully balanced, and the film's score further enhances the depth of the story.

Between delicate and thoughtful instrumental melodies, the haunting Ukrainian lullaby woven throughout, and Canadian country singer Brett Kissel's original song that will stick in your head long after you leave the theatre, the music is a major star of this show. Excellent performances and gorgeous cinematography!
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