Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. Canada, 2015. Rhombus Media, Elevation Pictures, Best Boy Productions. Screenplay by Stephen Dunn. Cinematography by Bobby Shore. Produced by Fraser Ash, Kevin Krikst, Edward J. Martin. Music by Todor Kabakov, Maya Postepski. Production Design by Lisa Soper. Costume Design by Melanie Oates. Film Editing by Bryan Atkinson. Dorian Awards 2016. Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
A young boy raised in a broken home in Newfoundland grows into his sexual self-awareness carrying a lot of baggage, namely his loving but overbearing father (Aaron Abrams), and the haunting memory of having witnessed a gruesome hate crime as a child. Aiming to eventually leave his sedentary hometown and make his way to New York to work as a special effects makeup artist, Oscar (Connor Jessup) can only really be himself with his pet hamster, whose imagined dialogue is voiced by Isabella Rossellini, while feeling ambivalent about the intimacy of his relationship with his best friend (Sofia Banzhaf). Smothering his burgeoning identity is dramatic enough to manifest itself as symbolic, dreamlike terrors that take on elements of early Cronenberg body horror, his stomach seeming to have something dying to get out whenever he feels challenged (and it’s accompanied by dark cues on the soundtrack). When a handsome Quebec boy (Aliocha Schneider) joins the team at the home improvement store where Oscar works, it sets in motion a Coming Of Age Summer that is not the less easy to deal with considering his friction with his father is increasing and his loving mother doesn’t know how to help him. Good acting and a striking visual style are a plus in this overwhelmingly familiar coming out tale, one whose director injects a lot of passion into the magic realism but doesn’t quite manage to make anyone other than his lead character unique. What it lacks in efficiency it makes up for it in sincerity, howevver, with even the most vaguely drawn characters made sympathetic by the performers, but you get the impression that director Stephen Dunn thinks that no one has ever told this story before (like C.R.A.Z.Y. or The Hanging Garden) and there’s so much more screen time spent on biographical information than is necessary (you can just tell us his parents got divorced, we don’t have to see the details).