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Wilby is the name of a small island in the Canadian Maritimes and the name of the main town located on the island. According to residents, there are two types of people who live on Wilby: islanders (people who were born on Wilby) and non-islanders. Among the townsfolk of Wilby are: single mom and recently returned islander Sandra Anderson, who was known as the girl in town with the reputation, something that has not changed in her adult years; Sandra's teen-aged daughter, Emily, who doesn't want to end up like her mother but can only think about making out with her new boyfriend; Buddy French, the local police officer who is having unspoken marital problems with his non-islander wife, Carol, the town realtor whose controlling behavior is pushing her and others around her on the verge of a nervous breakdown; the Mayor, Brent Fisher, who is secretly planning for his life post politics; dyslexic Duck McDonald, the town handyman; and recently separated non-islander Dan Jarvis who, because... Written by
Maybe it is just that I am a Californian and not a Canadian, but as an outsider, I have often loved Canadian Film. This is a prime example of what many Canadians seem to do that most US directors do not: take time to tell a story, not be afraid to show the dark side of characters, and trust actors to so what they do best.
I saw this film at OUTFEST, and was moved by a gay film that puts homosexuality in context: all the main characters of this film seek love and validation. All do it in different ways. All feel that they have been untrue to themselves, somehow, in this search for love. All seem to feel somehow thwarted by their past (or maybe, in the case of Sandra Oh's character, the most recent past), as well, in this hunt. The struggle of gay people to receive respect AND the love they deserve has been placed squarely into a larger context (we all have this same struggle for identity and validation); and I love this aspect of the film.
The film revolves around a few main characters: the man who comically tries to kill himself over and over, only to be interrupted at the most (in)opportune times; the painter who stalks him throughout the film, but who may also be his only chance at love; the real estate agent and her cop husband whose ideals have somehow drifted apart; and a hometown girl who has recently returned to town with her adolescent (and sexually coveted daughter, perhaps returning because of her sexual antics everywhere else they have lived. While each of these characters is certainly a "type," and has their moment of stereotypical comic relief, I was impressed at how director Daniel MacIvor showed the roots in reality for each stereotype, and allowed each Jungian type to have depth and a moment that ran against expectation.
The cast, as well, was fabulous. Sandra Oh is amazing at playing a together woman with another side. Rebecca Jenkins showed real sorrow beneath smuttiness. Even the actors playing the gay characters had moments of real transcendence, even though the suffering man in the closet and the lonely man chasing him theme has been played out before.
People walked out of this screening, so the film is obviously not for everyone. For me, however, it was a true tribute to the underlying humanity that brings messed up people together for the highest good.
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