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All My Puny Sorrows

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“Elf wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.” This is the engrossing conflict at the core of Michael McGowan’s affecting adaptation of Miriam Toews’ beloved novel.

Those words are uttered by Yoli (Alison Pill) who, despite a failed marriage and a floundering writing career, is primarily concerned about the wellbeing of her sister Elf (Sarah Gadon), a renowned pianist who’s ready to end her seemingly enviable life. As Yoli attempts to wrest Elf from her depression, the sisters must also confront memories of their strict Mennonite upbringing and their father’s (Donal Logue) sudden suicide.

Deftly constructing the narrative from fragments scattered across past and present, McGowan’s assured direction extends to eliciting splendid performances from a stellar cast that also includes Amybeth McNulty and Mare Winningham. But it’s Pill and Gadon who carry the film with their witty banter, cutting asides, and soul-baring declarations.

Never losing its capacity to surprise as it unflinchingly examines the bonds of sisterhood and complexities of one of the great taboos, All My Puny Sorrows ultimately proves life-affirming in the most rewarding of ways.


Michael McGowan


Alison Pill, Sarah Gadon, Amybeth McNulty, Mare Winningham, Donal Logue

Country of Origin







Geoblocked to British Columbia.

103 min

Book Tickets

Available July 29 - August 25
Closed Captioning - limited avail Screening Online
VIFF Connect
Book Now


Executive Producer

Hussain Amarshi, Peter Gibson, Naveen Prasad


Michael McGowan, Patrice Théroux, Tyler Levine


Michael McGowan


Daniel Grant


Michelle Szemberg, Orlee Buium

Original Music

Jonathan Goldsmith