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No happy endings in Hugh Gibson’s documentary The Stairs

The Stairs tells the story of Marty, Greg and Roxanne, each of whom survived decades of street-involvement in Toronto's Regent Park.

3 out of 4 stars

Title
The Stairs
Directed by
Hugh Gibson
Genre
Documentary
Classification
PG
Country
Canada
Language
English
Year
2016

"There aren't any of those happy endings. You're a recovering addict for the rest of your life, so where's the happy ending?" asks Marty, one of the subjects in Toronto filmmaker Hugh Gibson's The Stairs. The documentary, which was shot over five years, provides an intimate look at three public-health workers in Toronto who have experienced and continue to experience the problems they help others with.

Gibson is successful in illuminating the constant struggles of a user and the lasting impact drugs have on one's life, though the film does drag at times and can abruptly shift from subject to subject, disrupting the narrative flow. But these flaws are easily overlooked during the film's most gripping scenes: as Roxanne, a former sex-trade worker, describes being held captive for days during a "bad date," or Marty discusses being shot because of a dispute over crack.

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