Monday, August 11, 2008

Grey Owl

Although Grey Owl has a lot of potential, it's just painful to watch.

In the 1930s, a Canadian fur trapper named Archie "Grey Owl" Belaney (Pierce Brosnan), a white man who claims to be an Ojibwe, encounters Gertrude Bernard, an assimilated Iroquois who relies on him to revive her Native roots. Afterwards, when she sees that Grey Owl kills beavers for a living, Gertrude will ask him to embrace natural conservationism, which means only harming Mother Nature to satisfy fundamental needs. While he gets media attention both in Canada and the UK, Grey Owl will be known for his opposition to urban expansion.

First of all, the story giving life to the movie certainly has a lot of potential, because it deals with environmentalism, a subject that touches us. However, Grey Owl is not worth your time for two reasons: a script filled with loopholes and an uneven performance by the cast.

Speaking about William Nicholson's script, although we would like to feel attached to the characters, the story does a bad job in depicting the characters through their thoughts and motives. In fact, director Lord Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park) didn't bother to explore Archie's fascination for the Native way of life, since being a white makes him a fake Native in the eyes of people at that time. As for the character of Gertrude, we barely get to know why she wants to go back to her Native roots through Grey Owl.

Of course, the script could have been better, but the thin and bland dialogues don't illustrate the potential depth of the two main characters. In fact, with thin dialogues (more fit for a bad TV series' script) that suggest rather than clarify things, the movie doesn't manage to put things back into their historical context to let us thoroughly understand why Archie and Gertrude rejects the Canadian way of life. Add to that a corny love affair between Archie and Gertrude that looks more like a spur of the moment to make us sob.

Even worse: what makes the movie even more painful to watch is the uneven performance by the cast. While Pierce Brosnan's (GoldenEye) performance is barely appreciable, Annie Galipeau's is extremely dull. In fact, whenever Galipeau - despite being relatively attractive - says something on screen, she looks like a robot that can't emote.

Finally, Grey Owl is definitely the worst Canadian movie I've seen up to now. If you watch it out of curiosity, you'll notice that you just wasted your money.

Rating: 2.5/5

Grey Owl
Canada/UK (1999)
Length: 117 minutes
Genre: Historical drama
Screenplay: William Nicholson
Director: Richard Attenborough
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Annie Galipeau, Stewart Bick and Charles Edwin Powell

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