Break out and break ins

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

Scene from The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

There was not a preview of the teenage rites-of-passage comedy Growing Op before we went to press, but the film should garner more interest than the average Canadian production which is typically in and out of the cinema before you can say “hydroponic lighting system.” Writer-director Michael Melski, who hails from Sydney, Nova Scotia, drew inspiration from news stories of Vancouver grow-op raids. However, while the action takes place in a suburban grow-op, the film is not about drugs. It’s about a teenage boy Quinn – home-schooled and uncertain – trying to find his way in life. Says Melski: “It’s a story about Nature—about a young man growing through change, about the inexorable pull of first love, and the power of family. The long arc of the film is Quinn discovering his true nature.” Growing Op stars Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction), Rachel Blanchard (Flight of the Conchords), Wallace Langham (Little Miss Sunshine), and a newcomer Steven Yaffee (MVP). The soundtrack features many up-and-coming Canadian bands such as punk rebels Teenage Head, Matt Mays and El Torpedo, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Classfied, Jill Barber, Amelia Curran, and Nathan Wiley.

Still with Canadian films, Deepha Mehta’s latest Heaven On Earth is out this month, and has had mixed reviews. The film tackles the subject of arranged marriages through the story of Chand, a young woman who gives up her comfortable Indian community to move in with her socially sanctioned but abusive husband, Rocky. Deeply unhappy, Chand retreats into an inner life based on myth and fairy tales, creating a movie that some critics have called a “muddled” mixture of reality and fantasy.

Fresh from winning last month’s audience award for best film at the Vancouver International Film Festival comes I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime). A family drama of guilt and grief, it follows Juliette, a woman coming to terms with her past and present after being released from a 15 year stint in prison. The slow-burn story follows Juliette’s (Kristin Scott Thomas showing excellent command of the French language) gradual rapprochement with her family after her younger sister Léa (Elsa Zylberstein) invites Juliette into her family’s home.

A different kind of captivity is examined in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas(opening on 14th), a powerful holocaust drama based on John Boyne’s bestselling young adult novel. At its centre is Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a high ranking nazi officer at Auschwitz who goes on boyish explorations of a nearby “farm” where all the workers wear “striped pajamas.” In his travels, Bruno befriends a bald-headed boy his age on the other side of the barbed wire fence called Shmuel. Their friendship brings about a sequence of events that leads to a moving and, not unexpectedly, tragic conclusion.

If you are looking for something lighter, Happy Go Lucky is an unusually optimistic, feel-good movie from British director Mike Leigh, who also gave us the excellent but bleak Secrets & Lies and Vera DrakeHappy Go Lucky was developed using improvisational techniques of Leigh’s previous work, with its emphasis on deep characters. The film revolves around Poppy (Sally Hawkins) a chirpy, elementary school teacher in London, England who takes up driving lessons after someone steals her bicycle. When Sally finds herself stuck behind the wheel with a socially awkward instructor, the polar opposite of herself, it is an opportunity for her to shine. The film does depend on you being won over by Polly, but for most people that won’t be a problem. Oscar nominations are already being talked about for Hawkins.

Robert Alstead maintains a blog at www.2020Vancouver.com

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