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The coming-of-age of adolescent Brian O'Connal in small town Depression-era Saskatchewan is told. The son of the local pharmacist Gerald O'Connal, Brian is in many ways a typical boy, who dislikes school if only because of his run-ins with the nervous schoolteacher, Miss MacDonald, and who tries to catch gophers with his friends, Artie and Forbsie. His best friend and protector is slightly older Jonathan Ben, better known as The Young Ben (as his father is referred to as The Ben), who is highly regarded as a problem by those in town who see themselves as the moral authority if only because of The Young Ben's association to The Ben, the town still keeper and drunk. Brian's life takes a turn when his parents have to leave town temporarily, while Brian stays on his Uncle Sean's farm. That stint leads to a series of events which make Brian see life around him through slightly older and wiser eyes. Written by
This is a Canadian classic that many of us were made to watch several times throughout elementary and high school to teach us about life. It is based on the book by Canadian author W.O. Mitchell - who is also a professor of English and an actor (he was in episodes of "Road to Avonlea").
"Who Has Seen the Wind" is the story of a boy growing up in the Prairies in the old days where he bumps into many interesting characters. As a youngster, he is bereft of many of the prejudices that have the grown-ups shunning one another's company. He looks at each character with the eyes of wonder and accepts and loves everyone for who they are - the old crazy hermit who lives in a piano box and is always meandering around preaching verses from the Bible; the foul-mouthed man who gets arrested for setting up a still in a church basement which blows up during a Sunday service (during Prohibition days), the older boy who has failed several times at school. "Brian" looks deeply into each person's heart and finds whatever drops of goodness he can. He watches a school bully suddenly show signs that he cares for life - he pounces on a boy for killing a gopher.
This is a film about the cycle of life - of how things are born anew in the spring and die in the fall only to blossom again inevitably. And the few characters in the film who realise this accept everyone - allow women to smoke when it wasn't proper in those days; suggest to a school teacher that if she had children of her own, she might learn to discipline children through love instead of brutally punishing them; prevent a farmer from killing a runt piglet because everything has a right to live regardless of handicaps; or give a gift to a tearful Chinese girl whose birthday party was boycotted because she has "yellow skin and slanted eyes".
In one of the most stirring scenes of the film, a close family member of Brian gets sick and dies. He is sitting with an obese boy and comments that he is confused because he hasn't cried and he doesn't know why. Later, Brian is out in the fields, and a fierce storm rages. He stands alone, his body erect, not moving an inch. As the black clouds and raging wind and rain burst all around him, the tears stream down his face as he contemplates the death. He is taken in by the old hermit.
Sometimes the simplest, lowest budgeted films are the greatest because they rely on a wonderful theme, a beautiful story, memorable characters, and engaging dialogue. (10 out of 10)
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