Film Review: CARDINALS (Canada 2016) ***1/2

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Trailer

When Valerie returns home from prison years after killing her neighbour in an apparent drunk driving accident, she wants nothing more than to move on – until the deceased’s son shows up at … See full summary »

Writer:

Grayson Moore

 

CARDINALS is a thoroughly enjoyable dry comedy/suspense drama written by Grayson Moore and and directed by him and Aidan Shipley, both Toronto’s Ryerson University graduates.  It stars Sheila McCarthy who is always ever so good in movies like these, since she shot to fame in Patricia Rozema’s I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING.  McCarthy plays a mother, Valerie just out of prison from a drunken driving crime that killed her neighbour.  She is so good in CARDINALS that one cannot get enough of her.

The film is a bit disorienting.  For many a segment, it begins blurry with the audience not knowing what is going on.  For example, one scene starts with two women talking in a car before it is revealed that they are Valerie’s two daughters.  Another begins with a male visiting Valerie’s house before the male is revealed to be Valerie’s husband.  Moore’s script requires the audience to concentrate on the film, often providing surprises that titillate the senses.  It is recommended that the film be watched in its entirety in a cinema or if watched at home, without any interruptions.  The flow of the film’s narrative should not be interrupted.

One has to love the dialogue.  Wants what’s best for your mother.  Not so easy when your mother is just out of prison.  Example is the daughter to mother conversation when Valerie is just out of prison and the daughter wants the mother to make a few friends again.  “Did she suggest going out or did you?”  “She called and asked when you were coming out.” “Then she suggested.”  “How do you know I want to see her?”  Valerie is smart talking all the way and knows what she wants, likely that she had a decade in prison to plan what she was going to do when she got out.

As if the film is not without sufficient surprises (a good thing of course), the directors insert a spring swan parade that Valerie attends out of the blue.  Apart for the weird exhibits and odd swan hats and attire, the attendees wear it is snowing in the open.  These quirky and other highly original scenes distinguish and make Moore and Shipley’s film their own, creating a unique personality that is impossible to copy.

The role of Valerie’s parole officer is brilliantly written.  Though he is shown as a kind of asshole, he does make valid points and observations contributing to the story.  All this is evident in the scene where he mediates a meeting between Valerie and  (Noah Reid), the son of the man Valerie ran over.

As the film goes on, it becomes apparent all the incidents are not what they seem.  A flashback shows Valerie opening a bottle in the car to have a drink after she had hit the neighbour.   She enquires if her friend, Wendy who worked at the plant told the reason she had left weeks after Valerie went to prison.  Something is afoot and directors Moore and Shiokey piques the interest of the audience like a true Hitchcock suspensor.

CARDINALS remains one of the quirkily films Canadian directors used to churn out in the 80’s like Atom Agoyan, Patricia Rozema, Guy Madden and others.  One can hardly wait to see Moore and Shipley’s next project.  And stay for the closing credits to listen to the sweet little creepy song.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjOw0ug3Bqw

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Film Review: NEVER SAW IT COMING (Canada 2017)

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The film centres on con-artist Keisha Ceylon (Emily Hampshire), a mother trying to etch out a ‘decent’  living for herself and her young son.  She offers psychic services for a prominent fee in missing person cases.  When she reads in the news of a missing person, she shows up.  NEVER SAW IT COMING focuses on one of her cases gone foul.

One trouble with the film is that the audience is treated like idiots having to have all the plot points explained to them.  This is evident from the film’s first scam that the found missing son is in cohorts with Keisha in fooling his parents to pay her so that they can split the cash.

Eric Roberts (star of the 70’s and 80’s and brother of Julia Roberts) gets star billing for a minor part.  He plays Wendell Garfield who is in the film’s most problematic scene.  This is the one in which he is approached by Keisha after his wife’s death, she proposing to help him with her disappearance using her psychic powers.   He is initially shown as a strong skeptic only to become a believer in a few minutes.   She uses the word child and then he uses the word baby and she re-uses the term baby for child so that he starts believing her.  All the dialogue is too obvious for a psychic to use and the segment is totally unbelievable less silly.  Without much warning, a plot wist (not to be revealed in this review) occurs which stretches more of the story’s credibility.

The script or source material contains a few plot holes.  The most glaring one is the detective revealing all the case details to Keisha.  In real life, these things are kept from the public, especially when the investigation is not yet complete. 

The film is advertised s a comic thriller though there are hardly any laughs.  As a thriller, the violent acts occur suddenly, without warning so that there is little suspense or thrills either.  The film contains more violence than necessary and director Harvey is not shy to show to blood and gore.

To Harvey’s credit, he shoots a few solid scene like the ones at the start with the car breaking into the ice and then slowly sinking into the frozen lake.  

The film picks up whenever the story focuses on Keisha’s family life.  The abusive relationship with her boyfriend is the more interesting topic.  They represent the typical quarrelling couple that can no longer get along for the main fact that they have lived with each other for too long and are not willing to give love a second chance or sacrifice their own interests for the other.  The boyfriend is a loud-mouthed idiot who is interesting to watch.  What she sees in him initially is a complete mystery.  But Keisha still  manages to get him to do some of her dirty work.

NEVER SAW IT COMING makes good material as pulp fiction material.  As a film, it gets bogged down with implausible scenes and sub-par dialogue.  One can only shrug whenever a new plot twist occurs.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO1FX778RtE

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