Firstly, a note in regards to the comments made by the only other person who has commented on this movie: This film was not directed by Atom Egoyan. He is simply the executive producer.
It is however, distinctly and undeniably Canadian. It is disturbing, slow, sparse, and was made with an obviously low budget. It is also about a taboo subject and tends toward exploitation.
The story is really a working class update of Lolita with a triangle involving a woman, her boyfriend and a 13 year old girl. The elements of child abuse, working class life and female sexual identity are explored.
What makes the movie so unforgettably troubling is not the plot or the characters, but the way in which they are presented. The film is shot very simply with low grade film stock and has the look of a cheaply produced Canadian television show. The direction is mostly amateurish, involving ineffective framing and choppy scene transitions. And the acting is really quite awful. All these filmic problems only heighten the anxiety wrought by watching the film. The story is told bluntly and realistically. It offers little in the way of socially redeeming values and contains the most horrifying scene of sexual abuse i have ever witnessed in a movie. Told in flashback,it involves a toddler's first person view of a sexual assault and is, strangely enough, the most accomplished scene in the film. The remainder of the film involves brutality, both emotional and physical, between three incredibly damaged human beings including a teenage girl whose life is headed for certain disaster.
By the film's end, all the character's lives have been irreparably destroyed. The viewer is left with feelings of unfulfillment, as the movie sinks into a pit of hopelessness. It is not depressing in the same way as movies like Midnight Cowboy or Leaving Las Vegas were. The effect brought on the viewer in this case is closer to despair. A despair that we know that something is terribly wrong with the characters, especially the 13 year old girl, but all we can do is stare into the abyss of their lives as they go from bad to worse. The cumulative effect is not unlike that in Suspicious River, another Canadian film about sexual abuse. Like Suspicious River, this film takes the viewer on a difficult journey and offers few rewards. It remained in my mind for weeks after i saw it and i don't' think i will ever forget it. The end, involving a freeze frame and the sound of young children laughing, forms a horrifying imprint on the mind.
I often wonder, what is wrong with Canadian film? With few exceptions (notably Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter, and much of David Cronenberg's work), the output from the country has been poor. Much of it is cruel to the viewer. Is it the landscape? I can't shake an image i have of Canadian film as a barren stretch of land, with a few people living in isolated houses. And in those houses, something terrible is happening.
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