Director: Joey Klein
Writer: Joey Klein
Stars: Tatiana Maslany, Tom Cullen, Diana Bentley
Review by Gilbert Saeh
THE OTHER HALF is a Canadian romance drama between one grief-stricken man and a bipolar woman suffering from Rapid Cycling Bipolar 1 Disorder.
Chosen to open the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival in Toronto this year, which serves as a warning that the film is not an easy watch, the film shows no attempt at easing the audience towards its subject. The result is therefore, yes – a film that is not an easy watch.
The film features two prominent TV actors, Tom Cullen (2016 SAG winner/ensemble cast – TV’s Downton Abbey) and Tatiana Maslany (2016 Emmy winner/lead actress – TV’s Orphan Black). The two actors also serve as executive producers which implies the film being a love project for the two. The film’s simple story follows the couple, Nickie (Cullen) and Emily (Maslany) from the time they first meet (it is love at first sight), to their brief separation to the romance at the end where something happens (not revealed as would be a spoiler). They meet at the same time as another couple (Mark Rendall and Deragh Campbell), who interesting enough, face problems as well but for other reasons. The romance is not helped by Emily’s parents (Henry Czerny and Suzanne Clement). They believe the couple should separate and perhaps try again once Emily is normal. Clement is the actress featured in many of Xavier Dolan’s mentally disordered dramas (LAURENCE ANYWAYS, I KILLED MY MOTHER, MOMMY).
The film’s message is simple enough. Love conquers all. But as it is a fiction film, anything goes.
In a way too, THE OTHER HALF is a personal film with the director’s friends and family helping out. Klein’s father, a doctor with a background in English literature, advised on the script. Klein’s sister, a psychiatrist, helped prep Maslany before the shoot. His brother did Emily’s paintings.
The film, shot in Toronto, feels like Toronto from the familiar streets and the signature streetcars that often come into the frame.
For a film featuring mental disorder, the film contains many disturbing club scenes, shot in dim lighting with strobe lights, lasers and annoying sounds and music.
For a couple with disorders (Nickie also loves to fight), it is surprising that the couple never gets into any heated fights – only into minor arguments that are easily resolved. The one scene in which Emily freaks out at home and has to be handcuffed by a cop is the most effective one showing realistically, the mental anguish. Other than that, the film falls into the same story line about troubled couples – the parents refuse to help, the couple struggles on their own, and final survives.
THE OTHER HALF is an ok film with performances and everything passable in all departments. Yet, there is nothing that will draw a crowd to see the film. Who really wants to watch a film of a a troubled couple with mental disorders? The film also provides no insight about the disorder or how a couple can manage through the difficulties.
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