Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” but some people do it anyway. Take Valerie (Sheila McCarthy), protagonist of “Cardinals.” After spending a decade in prison for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated she returns home to an unexpected reception.
The story begins the night of her crime. Without spoiling the film’s set up I can tell you we see Valerie guzzling vodka in the front seat of her car as a lifeless body is illuminated by her tail lights. Fast-forward ten years. On the day of her release from prison her daughters (Grace Glowicki and Kate Boland) welcome her back. Not everyone is happy to see her, however. Next door neighbour and victim’s son Mark (Noah Reid) has waited ten years to confront her, to find out what, exactly, happened that fateful night. Valerie’s stoicism and lack of contriteness stonewalls Marks’ attempts to uncover the truth. Is there more to this story than he originally thought?
“Cardinals” is a slow burn that focuses on the reaction to Valerie’s actions. She brought tragedy to two familes, Mark lost a father and her daughters lost their mother, but as details are revealed in a harrowing climax, more questions about culpability and consequences are raised. It’s an interesting “Dateline” worthy crime story with an effective central performance from McCarthy.