Out of the blue comes this African Canadian film no one has heard of that is quite certainly, the best Canadian film of the year. It is one of the best I have seen, an excellent blend of drama and thrills with current issues also on display. BOOST is set in the parc-extension of East Montreal and shot in both French and English, though no knowledge of French need be known to completely follow the film.
Hakeem (Nabil Rajo) and Anthony/“A-Mac” (Jahmil French), teenagers in the Parc-Extension neighbourhood of Montreal work at Hakeem’s uncle’s car wash while simultaneously maintaining a sideline pursuit of passing on tips about valuable cars to the neighbourhood’s gang of car thieves. One day, after being expelled for 3 days from school for being rude to their teacher (Fanny Mallette), they decide to try their hands at undertaking an auto theft themselves. Hakkem’s mother (Oluniké Adeliyi) who wants the best for her two sons, goes ballistic when she finds out what her son is up to. Hakeem is the calm one but it is A-Mac that gets the two in trouble.
BOOST is a film that works on many levels while catering to different audiences. As a genre movie, it can be considered a car heist film with many suspenseful set-ups especially the main one stealing a posh car while in the garage of the owner’s residence. The car thieves are black youth, going to school, broke, suspended trying to make an extra buck for their families, maturing while making mistakes in life. It is a coming-of-age story of the two youths. At the same time, the film looks at the minority immigrant problem of Montreal.
“Don’t think for a moment that I don’t know when you fuck up,” advises the uncle to Akeem in a dead serious voice. There is a keen mix of care, caution and abandon in these words of advice, which is reflected in the craft of Curtis’ film.
A-Mac, Hakeem’s best friend is a friend for hell. Hanging out with him means an accident waiting to happen. In audience’s terms, it means edge of the seat suspense. Will Hakeem get in deep trouble? For example, when driving a stolen car, A-Mac defies to race another car and after, pick up a girl, Maxim for a ride.
This is writer/director Curtis’s directorial debut after winning a Telefilm Canadian writing grant. The two main characters in the script were originally South Asian but changed to African Canadians after hiring the actors. Director Curtis elicits superb performances, especially from his young actors, Rajo from Africa and French who plays his trouble seeking buddy from Scarborough. Adeliyi who play the mother is from Toronto while Mwine whom plays the uncle is from Uganda. Thee are Canadian actors too. Theodore Pellerin, a white Canadian in the supporting role of the car wash floor assistant manager who also plays the lead role in another Canadian film, NEVER STAEDY, NEVER STILL which coincidentally also opens the same day as his film. Pellerin is an actor to watch!
Many fresh talent in BOOST to watch out for, particularly its writer/director Curtis, who is actually white. The most impressive debut direction this year!