Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Victoria Day

If you're an aficionado of literature, you're probably aware that this is the feature debut of David Bezmozgis, an acclaimed author. I haven't read his book Natasha and Other Stories. Nonetheless, Bezmozgis is definitely a director to watch for the years to come because of his writing skills. The only problem I got was the cast's performance in Victoria Day because it's often soft at times.

1988: It's Victoria Day, school is almost over and the Edmonton Oilers (which had Wayne Gretzky at that time) were fighting in the NHL playoffs against the Boston Bruins. Ben Spector (Mark Rendall), a teenager from a Russian immigrant family living in Toronto, decides to attend to a concert of Bob Dylan with his two best friends. Once there, he runs into Jordan Chapman (Mitchell Amaral), the class jerk and Ben's annoying teammate in his amateur hockey team, who is five dollars shy of buying some drugs. Ben gives Jordan five dollars without enthusiasm. However, the next day, Jordan is absent from school and the hockey practice. As days pass, Jordan is nowhere to be found and Ben feels uncomfortable, especially when a romance between Cayla (Holly Deveaux), Jordan's sister, and him appears.

With its qualities and its flaws, Victoria Day's story is intelligently built. While it doesn't just focus on Jordan's disappearance, the film brilliantly bothers to show us how the leading characters try to still live a normal life almost like in Tout est parfait. Therefore, while not being entirely about Jordan's disappearance, the film also deals with 1) the relation between Ben and his parents; 2) Ben's coming of age or 3) what is was like to grow up in the Toronto of the 1980s for instance. After all, as we say it, life must go on no no matter how much regrets we have in our life.

Besides, the storyline suggests between the lines that the characters feel that the disappearance of Jordan changes their life one way or another. As a matter of fact, it doesn't take a PhD in psychology to understand that Ben feels responsible for Jordan's disappearance. After all, should Ben have given to Jordan the five dollars he needed to buy "good drugs"?

However, as things are suggested between the lines of the script, the leading actors (Mark Rendall and Holly Deveaux) are a little bit disconnected from their character. Although their performance is taken to the level we want it to be in the film's last quarter, Rendall and Deveaux give us the odd feeling that their characters have a "business as usual" attitude through a soft performance after the character of Jordan is reported missing. Needless to say that we feel we're being kept at arm's length from the story. Hopefully, Rendall and Deveaux are well supported by good supporting actors - especially the ones who play Ben's parents and Jordan's father - who always strike the right notes with each of their spoken words.

Obviously, this goes without saying that Victoria Day is a film I was anticipating on DVD and I wanted to like because it wasn't released in Montreal during the summer. Still, for a feature debut, Bezmozgis shows us that his writing skills allow him to give us a movie that can't be easily labelled and that feels quite close to our daily life. Besides, with the years to come, there's no doubt that Bezmozgis will hone his skills to direct actors.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:Canada (2009)
Length:88 minutes
Screenplay:David Bezmozgis
Director:David Bezmozgis
Starring:Mark Rendall and Holly Deveaux

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