Grey Roads (2021) Hot Docs Review (Written by Alex Humber)

This piece is part of our continuing coverage of the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2021. Keep tuned to our site to see plenty of reviews, interviews and features from our team, covering the films programmed at this years event. 

With the small town aesthetic dying out as bigger cities are continuing to grow and bringing it larger profits, what happens to the towns history? Is it even affordable and worth it to stay? What can be done to help save these small towns? All these questions are answered as Grey Roads tells the story of a dying small town.

Premiering at Hot Docs, Grey Roads tells the story of Markdale, a small town outside Toronto. With the town being over 100 years old, it seems to be a dying out. The documentary follows Jesse McCracken, a man who grew up in Markdale. He tells the history of the town, the downfall and what the community is doing to save the town through interviews with the townspeople as well as his father and grandfather. 

The heart of this Doc is Jesse McCracken documenting the towns hardships. Stories of big factories coming in and taking out businesses. Showing this really had a negative impact as work became scarce. The biggest issue came when the school was being sold. With no school in the town, younger families would not have a need to move in.

With Jesse interviewing his family and townsfolk, you grow to fall in love with the town as the nostalgic feeling of youth and “better days” begins to fade away with inevitable changes. The movie is presented in black and white which really adds to the nostalgic feel of the movie.

The best element of the doc would be the immaculate cinematography. The shots of the town mixed with the day-to-day lives of the citizens was visually stunning. The movie is presented in black and white which really adds to the nostalgic feel of the movie. The score is also fantastic! It provides a calming and emotional sense to the unfortunate reality the town is facing.

Overall, this was a pleasant watch. The subject matter was presented in a nostalgic way that was far from boring. The movie shines with the beautiful shots and soothing score. And finally, the ending allows for a hopeful future that will leave a smile on your face.

Grey Roads gets a 4/5!

Thanks for reading! Very much appreciated. Remember to hold on hope.


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