Film Review: PRODIGALS (Canada 2018) *** Directed by Michelle Ouellet

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Prodigals Poster
When a young man returns to his hometown to assist with a friend’s trial it soon becomes clear that he isn’t the beacon of success that everyone thought he was.

Director:

Michelle Ouellet

 

As Canadian as it gets, a big city dreamer, Wesley (David Alpay from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES) returns home to the small Ontarian town of Sault-Saint Marie from Toronto to testify for an old friend on trial for murder.   The script by Sean Minogue and Nicholas Carell based on the stage 2011 play by Minogue ups the angst by making it clear that Wesley is not a lawyer that everyone in the town thinks he is.  The old friend on trial is quite the asshole.

  In Sault-Saint Marie, Wesley struggles between an urge to reignite his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Jen (Sara Canning) and his friends’ expectations for him to save the trial.  Despite Wesley’s good intentions, he often comes across as quite the jerk.

Jen initially treats him with disdain, blaming him for leaving him behind.  But, as stories like this goes, they rekindle the times they have had with a good old fashioned roll in the hay.  But Jen (fortunately) has learnt her lesson and would not dream of letting Wesley get the upper hand again.  complications also arise as she is also going steady with another man, commonly known as Nips.

Director Ouellet captures the atmosphere of small town, Ontario complete with run down strip malls, dodgy pubs and moody skies.  It is winter or at least close to it as snow and ice can be observed on the ground.  The town is claustrophobic and there is no where to escape from the old friends Wesley has.  The story is told from Wesley’s point of view.  It is a film about twenty-somethings,

PRODIGALS contains a simple story of a man still trying to grow up and gain respect of his friends.  There is not much where the story can go.  Given the story’s limitations, Oulleet keeps his film always on track, trying to keep the audience’s attention.  It helps too that the lead actor Alpay, good looking and charismatic despite his character’s faults.  Caning and Alpay show off good chemistry as a couple.

The film contains a lot of confrontation scenes which reminds the audience that the film is based on a play.  But Ouellet, at least, puts these confrontation scenes in different settings.

As dramatic adapted plays go, PRODIGALS is a film where drama, acting and atmosphere are most important with crowd pleasing entertainment kept within limit.  PRODIGALS ends up a successful  realistic youth drama with real small town issues that sometimes cannot be solved.  Such is life!

Trailer: https://icff.ca/movie-2018-il-colore-nascosto-delle-cose/

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Film Review: BIRDLAND (Canada 2017)

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Birdland Poster
An ex-cop whose marriage is on the rocks hides surveillance cameras in her home and watches her husbands transgressions, becoming a voyeur of her own life.

Director:

Peter Lynch

 

BIRDLAND is a heralded DGC (Directors Guild of Canada) film from DRG veteran Peter Lynch who made the successful ARROWHEAD and PROJECT GRIZZLY.  The special screening I attended was followed by an extensive Q and A session with director Lynch, his wife, the film’s editor, Caroline Christie and its production designer and Patricia Christie moderated by Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

Described by Lynch himself as a 60’s style European art movie, the film follows an ex-cop, Sheila Hood (Kathleen Munroe) whose marriage is on the rocks.  Sheila hides surveillance cameras in her home and watches her husband’s (David Alpay) transgressions, becoming a voyeur of her own life.  When the husband, Tom Kale is suspect for two murders, she is forced to question her motives.  The script by Lynch and Lee Gowan bring in current events of oil and fracking into the story.  If all this sound straight forward, the film isn’t.  Lynch’s film is very difficult to follow.  When asked about this, the reason given is to keep the audience on their toes.  But it seems more an excuse than anything else.

The film was shot in 6 weeks on a minuscule budget with $6,000 devoted to the production. It is therefore not surprising that the film looks so badly edited and confused.  To the production designer Patricia Christie’s credit and the Director of Photography, the film looks stylish and expensive.  Lynch apparently borrowed artwork from friends and filmed in a friend’s very expensive and plush apartment as well as at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Surveillance is the common thread in the story.  Human beings are seen as if living in a birdcage with all their actions observed.  The song BIRDCAGE is also performed a few times in the film.

BIRDLAND is too stylish and artsy for audiences to feel for the characters.  Besides the story being difficult to follow, the film requires full concentration.  Lynch in the film’s defence, said that it is necessary for the audience to get lost in the film.  The result is quite a few of the audience ‘politely’ leaving the theatre (including my guest) midway during the film.  Lynch says that the film should be watched at one go, maybe on a computer, something that very few directors ever say about their movie.

The plot leads nowhere.  Despite having the topic of surveillance on display, Lynch never leads the topic anywhere either, nor does the film contain any clear message on surveillance in the 21st century.  Lynch is also fond of repetitive scenes.  The one with Sheila looking up at he closed circuit cameras and tapping on the lens is one example.  Another is the one with a subway rider listening to her headphones before pressing the emergency stop break as a result of an accident (a victim thrown from the bridge on to the train.)

To the film’s credit, Lynch has made a film that looks expensive despite its low budget.  This is not enough a good reason for this terrible film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_PTtuOCeko

 

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