After causing a drunk driving accident, Donna (Shan MacDonald) is sentenced to community service and ends up working as a cleaner at an animal shelter. The middle-aged woman, who suffers from a heart murmur, lives a lonely, isolated life. When Charlie, an elderly dog with several health issues, is scheduled to be euthanised, the woman offers to take him home. From there on, she develops a growing obsession with collecting pets. 

The woman’s addiction to rehoming pets is less about compassion than it is about a guttural need to feel needed, a yearning that has been left to bleed since her daughter’s estrangement, a direct cause of Donna’s alcoholism. She lovingly speaks to each and every animal, carefully explaining all the details regarding their treatment. She worries about their eating and eagerly observes each trait of their behaviour – until it all spirals out of control, the animals merely a band-aid covering a deep bullet wound. 

Murmur is bleak, not only in its portrait of loneliness, but in how it conveys it visually. The colours are washed out and cold, a myriad of beiges and blues. The camera lingers on Donna’s tired countenance, her interlocutors rarely seen as Young chooses to capture every glimpse of her reactions. Be it at a reprimand from her boss or a heart-to-heart with a counsellor, nothing is lost.

MacDonald confers Donna the quietude needed for the feelings of forlornness to linger. Every small task feels like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain, her awareness of how it all seems to be for nothing too much to bear. That first taste of joy found in Charlie’s company can never be reproduced,  regardless of how many animals she brings home – but yet she tries. And in this neverending sequence of failures, Murmur poignantly states: hope here is eternally drenched in sorrow. 



CAST: Shan MacDonald, Andria Edwards

DIRECTOR: Heather Young

WRITER: Heather Young

SYNOPSIS: When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home to fill the emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head.

About The Author


Rafaela Sales Ross is a proud Brazilian currently living in Scotland. She has a Masters in Film and Visual Culture and has been diving deep into the portrait of suicide on film for a few years now. Rafa, as she likes to be called, loves Harold and Maude, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Kleber Mendonça Filho and pretty much anything with either Ruth Gordon or Javier Bardem in it. You can find her on both Twitter and Letterboxd @rafiews