As human beings when our time comes to pass into the other world we will have collected a series of life experiences. They will range from horrific to ecstatic. Canadian musician Tom Wilson seems to have experienced the complete range. It is the unpleasant ones that leave scars. A scar is a healed wound but for some the wound of a life experience never heals.
Tom Wilson was born a child of the 1950’s and was parented by George and “Bunny” Wilson. George was blinded while serving as a rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber in WW2. George never talked about this terrible experience except when he took to liquor and his anger and bitterness came gushing out. Yes George bore a wound that never healed.
Tom grew up like he was in a “witness protection programme” with no non-family members permitted in the house. Tom looked at neighbours having barbeques and living active lives but that was not the life he led. He was a loner without much of an identity as there were so few people that he could identify with.
He always appreciated the visits of his cousin Janie and her attendance at many key events of Tom’s life. Janie was a Mohawk originally from the Kahnawake reservation just off the island of Montreal.
Tom managed to find something of an identity through music initially folk then punk and then rock finding some success with his band Junk House releasing albums with Sony Canada. Then a rock n roll script of too much booze and drugs. He met and married a waitress at a bar his band was playing at and had two children one of which was Madeline who is featured in the documentary. Not being raised in a “normal” family relationship parenting skills eluded him. It was easier simply to escape playing “on the road”.
Tom started painting in 1997 with his works having an indigenous influence but why? He had frequent dreams of crossing a bridge over water being caried by his uncle who transformed into a turtle. It took Tom years to finally understand this dream.
Then a huge bomb is dropped on him out of the blue that would send anyone reeling. I wish I could tell you what that bomb was but then it wouldn’t be a bomb for you. But you begin to pick up clues along the way and they snap together when the bomb is dropped.
His wife found out about his drugs and extra-curricular affairs and the marriage ended and Tom hit a downward spiral to the extent his band broke up. His Junk House drummer laments the fact he never tried to reign in Tom.
After the bomb is dropped Tom pieces his life together slowly discovering his identity and discovers the deep scar running through Cousin Janie’s life. Tom finally understands his identity and becomes part of a community honestly and with joy. If the scars are beautiful, it is because it signifies Tom’s wounds have healed.
A poignant story is woven by Tom Wilson reminding that while life dishes out many wounds it also may give back the tools to heal. It may also beg a wider question of what scars you have and can they heal? It may also remind Canadians of just another set of atrocities suffered by our First Nation’s people.
The world premiere is on May 2 in theatre and then on May 5. It can be streamed as of May 3rd for 5 days.
Part of the Toronto Hot Docs Festival.
Directed by Métis director Shane Belcourt.
RKS Film Rating 91/100.