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It's sometime in the 1970's. Fifteen year old loner Agnes Marie Pottie - nicknamed Mooney - dreams of escaping life in New Waterford, a coastal Nova Scotia town on Cape Breton Island. She has quiet contempt for most of the people around her - including her large family - who don't share her sensibilities. They, who are ruled by Catholic mores, in turn think she's unconventional and weird. She thinks she's realized her dream when, with the help of her teacher Cecil Sweeney, who himself has escaped to New Waterford to find himself (at which he has been unsuccessful so far), she has been awarded a scholarship to attend an art school in New York. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when her parents don't allow her to go. She devises a plan to get out of New Waterford, one that goes against her loner status. In the meantime, a bit of New York comes to New Waterford in the form of Lou Benzoa, who, with her dance instructor mother, has temporarily moved next door to the Pottie's to escape life... Written by
When writer Tricia Fish moved to New Waterford at age 13 with her family, her six-year-old brother ran into their kitchen one day all bloody, and happily said, "I made a friend!" She incorporated this into the movie, in an identical scene with the character of Darcy, Lou's little brother. See more »
In the first classroom scene the map of Canada on the wall has Nunavut listed, a Territory created in 1999. See more »
I wasn't really born here, you know. When I was a tiny infant, my real mother, a famous opera singer, dropped me from a silver jet as she passed over what she saw as a beautiful tropical coastline. God's country.
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One of the best coming-of-age stories of this generation.
"New Waterford Girl," from director Allan Moyle, is just about as close as one is going to come to perfection in film this year, a harrowing journey of two different girls who band together in a never-changing town of Cape Breton, off the coast of Nova Scotia. Never mind that this film is Canadian released (as well as traveling the festival circuits) and for the moment that you can't find it anywhere else. You will be hearing about it.
This film, set in the 70's, is about teenage angst in a changing world, this case being the demise of small towns, where the world never changes. It takes place in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and makes the two protagonists very different but with a same goal. One is a sullen, angry 15 year old girl who wants out of her tepid existence in Breton, the other is a tough girl with a sharp attitude and fears no one, a girl who has just moved to the town, and they change each other's lives forever.
The former girl is Mooney Pottie (Liane Balaban), who has her nose in a book when not in school, ignoring everyone around her, even her family, which does not understand, let alone appreciate her. She wants to study art in New York, but her family objects to that idea, instead they want her to stay home and take a nursing job, for example. Things start to change when the girl across the way, Lou Benzoa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) moves in, who left from the Bronx in hiding from her father going to jail; her life can't go on from there. Her mother (Cathy Moriarty) detests it immediately. The scene where Mooney and Lou meet is funny, where all Mooney has to do is point her fingers around and mention "Bar, hospital, main drag, fish warehouse, street. That's the tour." Indeed it is, it only takes a few minutes to drive the entire stretch of the town.
Mooney and Lou eventually do come together and their flaws, dreams, ideas and passions come out and they try to make the best of it. They both want out. Mooney wants to study in New York, Lou wants to go back. The seaside town certainly isn't good enough for the both of them, and they make as much change as they can, in the hopes of it doing something. The boxing of Lou's father has rubbed off on her, as she becomes a tough girl unlike any of the others in town, and uses it to her advantage.
There's more to "New Waterford Girl" than this, more spirit, ideas and "life" than expected, that makes this a wonderful experience. That a film dares to be different and unique, and is so emotionally wrenching yet funny, touching and free, surprising and realistic that it becomes more than a movie, it's a great addition to the teen "coming of age" movies of our generation.
Liane Balaban and Tara Spencer-Nairn are two actresses to watch this year. Balaban, who looks strikingly like Natalie Portman and with realism, edge and amazing beauty, plays Mooney perfectly, as a girl on the end of her emotional rope, wanting release, something more, something better. Spencer-Nairn is a firecracker of amazing talent and power, in one of the most unique and honest performances I've seen, as a girl who can't adjust to her surroundings and makes attention known to the town.
The supporting cast is also excellent; Mark McKinney plays a confused doctor who thinks he is treating Mooney but really isn't changing anything about her. Mooney's parents are played by Nicholas Campbell and Mary Walsh, who are absolutely convincing as worried, crazed parents from that decade. Cathy Moriarty is great as Lou's mom, she has nothing to add to the town and despises the hiding. And Andrew McCarthy plays Mooney's teacher, who tries to counsel Mooney on her future yet is interested in other things.
I went into this film with no expectations. I had seen no clips or reviews going in, just the poster and some newspaper advertisements. I had only heard of director Moyle through some of his other films ("Empire Records," "Pump Up The Volume," among others, unseen by me) How refreshing it is to come out of a movie this satisfied, knowing this will speak to many people, and inspire and possibly even change a few lives in the process, giving hope to not only Canadian independent filmmaking but to our own desires and dreams that we choose or choose not to live out. Even if Lou Benzoa carries your picture.
Rating: **** out of ****
Director: Allan Moyle Length: 98 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
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