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BOREALIS (Canada 2015) ***
Directed by Sean Garrity
Starring: Joey King, Emily Hampshire, Kevin Pollak |
Review by Gilbert Seah
BOREALIS opens with two key scenes that establishes the mood and plot line of the film. The first shows the lead character, Jonah (Jonas Chernick) losing at blackjack and having to pay a massive debt or have his legs broken. His daughter, Aurora (Joey King) is about to lose her eyesight for good. In a Hollywood movie, the lead would have to get money to pay for the operation to regain the daughter’s sight, as in for example, Stanley Donen’s parody MOVIE, MOVIE, but this is a non-commercial Canadian film.
Garrity has already awed audiences with INERTIA, LUCID and MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE and actor Chernick has penned LUCID as well as co-written BOREALIS. So, BOREALIS is an anticipated film for those in the know.
The father keeps the bad news from her, taking her on a road trip for two purposes – to run away form his debtors and to show her the Aurora Borealis, a beautiful sight before she loses her sight.
One of the most interesting things about this film is that it features two very annoying leads. The father, the compulsive gambler is also a compulsive liar with hardly any redeeming qualities. He has squandered away all his money and lost his daughter’s possessions including her dog to his debtors. The daughter on the other hand is a 15-year old punk, who is as annoying as any teenager can be, not listening to her father (not that he is worth listening to), and partying half the time. As the film progresses, it becomes a question of who the audience dislikes less.
Garrity’s film is strangely an anti-message film. It tells the audience, for example than gambling is ok and it sorts itself out in the end. A more disturbing message is the one about the Good Samaritan getting almost killed (or maybe killed) for helping out the father and daughter in one scene.
But one thing about Garrity’s film is for sure. It is not the predictable fare one would expect. Things can turn for the better or worse, and good guys and bad guys can get it or win, depending on the mood of the director. But for unpredictable fare, the film accomplishes an unexpected climax that works well, all things considered. Camera work is not half bad, the climax done in the dead of night with just enough light to reveal the important details.
BOREALIS is also proudly Canadian. It could have easily opted for an American setting to delver to a larger audience but it does not. It celebrates Canadian from the road trip with Canadian places to the Canadian dollars flashed out at a diner. The film was shot largely in the Province of Manitoba.
One can always finds flaws in Garrity’s film, and there are quite a few. Still, one cannot complain that the director has accomplished a well executed, mostly compelling film within a small budget. The film looks good in terms of production values.
Borealis has a premiere at the Canadian Film Festival and opens its commercial run a week later – showing that it is one of the festival’s better films. Garrity also won the Best Director Award and Joey King the Best Actress Award at the Festival.
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