I just realized that the last three movies I’ve gone to have all had one thing in common: they are all Canadian films! In my quest to support independent film, I just happened to seek out three very different movies, all set and produced in Canada! I thought it would be interesting, as an outsider, to review them for you!
The first, “The Necessities of Life,” began on breath-taking Baffin Island with an Inuit man who was hunting for his family’s food. The landscape was majestic and his way of life so traditional it was a surprise to suddenly see a ship loom on the horizon. The man takes his family aboard, identifies himself and discovers he has tuberculosis. He is stunned he has to leave his family that very minute and be quarantined for treatment. After three months on a boat, he is driven in a car to a sanitarium set in 1950’s Quebec City (not to be confused with the province of the same name!). Keep in mind he has never been in a car or building before nor seen a tree. Everything is new to him: the food, the bathroom, his haircut, his face shaved, the bed and most of all the language and customs. Everything is bewildering and we observe him going through profound culture shock and then isolation. He is saved by a thoughtful nurse who locates an Inuk orphan (also with TB) to be his friend. This was such a beautiful movie and very well acted.
"It’s Not Me, I Swear!” was also set in Quebec but hailed from 1970's suburbia. A little boy acts out to get attention or to assert some sense of control over his chaotic life. At times both charming and disturbing, this wasn’t an easy movie to watch and I felt it needed more focused sense of direction. I was never sure when the climax or resolution happened.
Probably having the greatest appeal to the masses, “One Week” featured a teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and takes a motorcycle trip from Toronto to the west coast of Canada. Watch this for scenery and quirky quintessential Canadian moments. The product placements (from Tim Horton’s “Roll Up the Rim” promotion to the Roots leather jacket Joshua Jackson sported the entire movie) did leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth and some parts of the story seemed forced (random forest sex?) but overall I totally enjoyed the ride (as well as the awesome soundtrack).
With so many other countries in the world, I feel it’s vital that we seek out other voices that are trying to be heard besides just the Hollywood blockbusters. By the same token, I think Canadians who create need to define themselves by what they are instead of merely as a contrast to the mainstream (by that I mean the States). Watching these movies set in Canada, I got to know a little more about the culture and life of my adopted country. I definitely would like to see “Pontypool” next and hope to see some Canadian documentaries as part of the Hot Docs Festival next month. Any other Canadian film suggestions?