|Index||7 reviews in total|
This movies isn't so much a "coming of age" story as it is a glimpse
into the cause and effect of various character's actions and emotions.
The movie is filmed beautifully. Something about the way it was filmed almost felt voyeur-like. It's a slow telling -- people looking for action, adventure or intense drama aren't going to enjoy it. For the most part, the teens convey a believable apathy, and the angst that is presumably just under the surface stays there under a veil of boredom and is just alluded to by the cinematography.
The teen characters are solid. They perfectly embody the flippant and nonchalant attitude of that age group. Their conversations and interactions were natural, and thankfully, none of them were precocious, precious or inherently bad.
All in all, it was a very languid telling of minor actions and their major consequences.
There are more coming-of-age films than masterpieces in the Louvre, but
there are only a handful of them that have stood the test of time.
First-time Canadian director Andrew Cividino's Sleeping Giant, an
update of the short that won the youth jury prize at Locarno last year,
may just join this select group. Winner of the award for Best Canadian
First Feature Film at the Toronto Film Festival, it is the story of
three very different teenage boys during a summer vacation in Northern
Ontario. It is not a comedy about lovable misfits such as "Kings of
Summer," but an expression of growing up in all its reality and in all
The film is set in the rugged area around Lake Superior close to lush forests and breathtaking mountain ranges, beautifully photographed by cinematographer James Klopko. The title refers to the huge rock formation near Thunder Bay known as Todd's Cliff which was named after the individual who survived the 100-foot drop. The title, however, can also apply to the anger building in 15-year-old Adam (Jackson Martin), a sensitive, slightly effeminate boy with a shaky self image. Adam, who does not seem to have an offensive bone in his body, is the odd man out in his collection of friends which includes cousins Nate (Nick Servino) and Riley (Reece Moffett). The boys are staying with their Grandmother (Rita Serino) but would not look out of place in a juvenile detention facility.
They are tough, sarcastic, and funny, but troubled people who often seem numb to human emotion. Though the three live in different social and economic worlds, Adam seems content just to be included and his eyes seem to fix on Riley, an abrasive but still saner version of his noxious cousin Nate. During a wrestling contest on the beach, a bloodied Adam hits his head on a rock but all Riley can say is "Stop being a pussy." Adam has come up to Thunder Bay with his well off parents, his mom and pseudo-hipster dad William (David Disher, "My Father and the Man in Black") who knows all the right words to ingratiate himself with the teenagers.
When William invites Riley for dinner, Nate has a ton of nasty and sarcastic things to say about parents, suggesting the reason why the boys are staying with their Grandmother. Riley is not adverse to stirring the pot either and, when he happens to glimpse Adam's dad making out with Marianne, (Erika Brodzky) a local fish market owner, he spills the beans to Adam who takes it very hard. The normally placid boy begins spying on the woman, and his personality takes on a harder edge as he joins the others in getting high and robbing a liquor store. Tension, jealousy, and confusion arise between the three boys, however, as Adam and Riley both set their sights on a local girl named Taylor (Katelyn McKerracher), though for Adam she is "just a friend." Though much of time is spent with innocent pleasures such as playing board games, walking in the woods, jumping into the water from rocks, or wrestling, there is a sense of foreboding hanging over the film that shifts the mood quickly. This happens when the fun of playing a board game triggers a bloody brawl between Nate and Riley and when a summer afternoon outing is darkened by the smashing of the carcass of a dead bird. It is only when the boys succumb to peer pressure and attempt to prove their manhood that things get so far out of hand that there is no back to turn to.
Unlike films with similar themes in which adults look back at their youth with nostalgia, in Sleeping Giant there is no looking back, only the immediacy and visceral impact of a powerfully real experience. Backed by the indie-rock sounds of Toronto-based Bruce Peninsula and an original score by Chris Thornborrow, brilliant performances by the three young men fully capture the lived-in quality of people coming-of-age right before our eyes. It is a film that feels as if you are watching it in real time and when the realization that our lives can change in an instant hits you in the gut, you wish it was just a movie rather than a familiar experience.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a monster film, but the
"Sleeping Giant" to which the title refers is not actually some great,
dozing behemoth. Rather, the giant in question is the pent- up,
sleeping aggression that boils in a boy's mind, his violent nature
that, for the good of himself and others, must be kept hidden and
forgotten. Andrew Cividino's debut film, a haunting piece about three
teenage boys who battle through their boredom on the shores of Lake
Superior, explores this unsettling reality of the teenage experience
with startling precision and a steady hand. With the majority of modern
teenage cinema focussing on serving up ridiculous morbidity and sex
objects on a badly-made platter (Hunger Games, I'm looking at you) and
the celebrated classics of the genre focussing on created a homogenized
teenage reality with which we supposedly all identify (Boyhood, I'm
looking at you) this film, a film that dares to show a little truth, is
an especially timely slap in the face. Not only that, but I can say
with confidence that Sleeping Giant is the best film I've seen all
Jackson Martin plays the protagonist of the film, Adam, a reticent fifteen-year old who exists, along with his friends Nate and Riley, in a state of perpetual boredom. Although the other two readily participate in all sorts of strange little schemes, it's Nate who drives them from one distraction to the next. Riley shares Nate's restlessness, but lacks the recklessness and bravado that solidifies Nate as the leader of the bunch. And Adam serves as the quiet voice of moderation, who goes mostly ignored, teetering on the fine line between retaining his principles and belonging with the people around him.
It isn't just his friends who make him feel this way. Adam's father treats Riley better than he treats Adam, and the girl he likes, Taylor, is making eyes at Riley. But what is Adam to do? Living a secluded life and brimful of boredom, his friends offer the only available respite. So he goes along, robbing convenience stores (their getaway vehicle is a golf cart), smoking weed in a bum's trailer, and in a particularly anarchic scene, tying a firecracker to a skateboard. As the boys test the limits of their power, they grow more confident, more fearless, almost even suicidal. But don't you dare think that you're in for a coming-of-age film.
This isn't a film about maturation. It's a film that addresses its subjects: teenage boys. It explores their hearts and minds, and the toxicity lurking in them. Nate is a stone-cold psycho, but it's frightening how recognizable he is. His dialogue is vulgar and bloated, but not unrealistic. And Nick Serino's performance is worthy of commendation ten times over.
The direction is fantastic. The film is shot in an unabashedly Canadian fashion, reveling in the landscape and in bodies rather than faces. For a debut, the subtlety is incredible. Brief suggestions and striking lines capture our attention and urge us to think about their implications. Part of it is sheer guesswork, but some of it pays off. If anything, it makes the film a more engaging experience.
Cividino's film is autobiographical in more ways than one. First of all, the setting is gathered straight from Cividino's childhood. But more importantly, the film reflects how he experienced those lonely shores, how he coped with boredom, and how poisonous his options were. As Adam descends further into juvenile savagery, he begins to develop strange -- but admittedly relatable -- little habits. He becomes fascinated with a fishmonger that his father is having an affair with, going so far as to place a telescope outside her house and watch her undress. He lies to his parents, Taylor, and finally to his friends.
The final confrontation refers back to ancient Greek tragedies. The threads of fate are tied by this point, we know what's going to happen, and when it does, we realize that it didn't even need to, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.
The only thing the film lacks is a real ending. Sure, it ends, but it seems to come out of nowhere. Something momentous has happened, at least in my mind, but the ending doesn't seem to do the harsh beauty of the film justice, freeze-framing the story in a way that's very, very unsatisfying. This is a problem, but still only a minor blunder that I'll admit is subject to taste.
As they say, boys will be boys. And guess what? They're right.
This movie is what most of the reviews say it is; the story of three
boys spending a summer on the shores of Lake Superior during a critical
time in their development. The movie could have been set anywhere, we
have seen the story before with different actors and different
circumstances but the same ending- confusion, love, friendship and
betrayal-culminating in tragedy. And in my opinion this movie did have
an ending (contrary to what one reviewer states). There was no more to
tell; in fact, to have the characters do or say more would have
weakened the message.
This is an "Art" film. The reviewer who gave one star points that out and then goes on to also underscore his/her lack of appreciation for art, instead making sure we know that the reviewer has a bad knee, pointing out the actors' need for dental work rather than the wonderful subtleties of the filming and acting. That the events of this particular story - teenage angst, boredom, insecurity, relationships, drugs/alcohol, stealing, destructive behaviour and foul/disrespectful language - unfold in a landscape full of nature's gifts makes it all the more poignant. The seemingly slow story is full of signs, symbols, foreshadowing and prophetic fallacy. The beetles, the dead bird, the fireworks, all play a part in telling the story by showing us the state of mind of the three boys. A lot of what they do is common among teenagers but this movie, for me, shows in broad strokes the problems inherent with stereotypes and judging by those stereotypes. The one boy that is portrayed as having perhaps the best character is guilty of something he cannot undo and cannot take back that had horrific consequences. And the boy portrayed as a "bad seed" with no future is the one who in reality shows us his humanity and acts upon the values of truth and honesty. The third boy, seemingly neither bad nor good, just goes along with the people around him and never takes a moral stance.
I really enjoyed this film and suggest that you don't go into it looking for its faults but instead enjoy the subtleties and painful truths it has to offer.
"Sleeping Giant" is a low-key Canadian film that builds to an explosive
climax; even if sensitive coming of age stories tend to give you the
indie fidgets, I'd still recommend this one. It does start out slowly,
with improv'd ensemble scenes (quite convincing), standard montages of
teenagers doing carefree teenage stuff and gorgeous shots of the Lake
The POV character, Adam, is too shy and passive to generate much storyline on his ownhow many kids like that grow up make indie films?, I wonderthough the shaky family dynamic is laid out very nicely: A scene where Adam's well intentioned but clumsy dad urges him to start something with his childhood friend, Taylornow a lovely young woman who's caught the eye of one of Adam's bad-boy cousinssignals clearly that Dad may be up to something himself
These and a few more wispy, unresolved subplots don't build up much momentum till the final scenes, beginning with a teenage tantrum that busts up a family Monopoly game (I know, pretty Canadian, eh?) Great performances by the teenage principals, esp. first-time actor Nick Serino as another bad-boy cousin, Nate, the tantrum thrower. Not essential, but still quite watchable and available on streaming Netflixotherwise how would we ever get to see it?
I didn't expect much from this film. It didn't look bad, but I just thought maybe it'd end up being a forgettable independent coming-of-age film. Luckily, I found it to be a lot better than that. I thought the acting was a bit inconsistent overall (the lead male being the best actor of the boys), but the sensitive, nuanced direction and screenplay helped the film become something actually special. It's a film that is willing to contemplate ideas that do weigh a lot, but I bet a lot of people the same age as these characters might actually relate. I don't think it's a great, original film, but definitely well-executed for the most part.
I watched this film to the end even though it was as excruciating as
"It's Canadian; it's art," I repeatedly told myself. No, it's simply a badly made film. A boring narrative of three unremarkable teenage boys, two of whom need major orthodontic overhauls, bored out of their trees during summer vacation.
The scenes are as disjointed as the knee I keep throwing out and the film's closing credits appear from out of nowhere.
Don't waste your time. Bad acting, amateurish photography, terrible script.
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Official site||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|