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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 rare film, a unsentimental film about children. There is cruelty, but not exaggerated Hollywood cruelty, only real life mundane cruelty to animals and children. It does not milk the dramatic situations excessively. They roll by much the way they do in real life.
There is a an enormous cast of characters, a whole town. The time and place are accurately reproduced, without excessive newly painted gloss you normally see in period movies.
The casting is wonderful with an almost Felliniesque variety of interesting faces.
The film tugs at your heart without cheap tricks. It depicts life just the way it really is.
The story revolves around a boy about 10. The actor who plays him does a superb job, mostly with subtle facial expressions and body language. It is an understated role. You don't feel emotionally blackmailed with cheap tricks to gain your sympathy. Yet you feel his pain as if it were your very own.
This movie might be considered the archetype for the great Canadian movie.
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