What the film is about:
You know what's like when you expect something and get something entirely different? That's Wilby Wonderful. It was so slow, desperate, and blackly humourous but at the same time quaint, scenic and optimistic. I really loved it. Basically it is about Wilby, a fictitious Island off of Canada. It is about the residents of Wilby, whether they have lived there their whole life, come from there and have returned, or are new. It's about their hopes, their aspirations, their prejudices. There are really around three paired character lines and one plot line which run through the film, but they intersect. There is some sort of scandal at the Watch - the only undeveloped coast area of Wilby, that the newspaper is about to publish information about. The arc of the story is set over a one day period - but unlike most films with that setting, it makes sense and doesn't seem too crowded. There are lots of elements which are suggested that create a feeling of time and space. The central character driven plotline, one could argue (as the film begins and ends with this story), is that of Dan Jarvis, who is attempting to take his own life - and keeps getting interrupted.
And the reason I saw this film was for Paul Gross and Callum Keith Rennie, due South actors extraordinnaires, who play two of the main characters in the film.
The three pairings are;
Buddy and Carol French, who are becoming more and more estranged. Buddy is a local police officer, a 'failed hero' as the writer/director describes him, and Carol is a business woman who has become so caught up in trying to establish a future that she has forgotten to live in the present. Buddy has lived on Wilby his whole life, in fact his great grandfather was one of the founders. Carol and his mother never got along, and this caused a great deal of tension. Buddy's mother is now dead and they are selling her house.
Sandra and Emily Anderson, mother and daughter, who have come from the mainland. Sandra was originally from Wilby. They're trying to set up a cafe. Sandra is sexually promiscuous, or is seen as such by others. And she's embarking on having a bit of a fling with Buddy. Meanwhile, Emily is dealing with her issues of growing older, having a boyfriend who is insistent on taking their relationship to the next level (he's an arsehole), and figuring out what she wants from life.
Dan Jarvis and his (friendly) stalker Duck Macdonald. Dan is deeply depressed and we first meet him trying to jump off a bridge until Duck turns up. Dan is originally from the mainland, and it seems like he has not been on Wilby long. It appears there is a scandal about to break, his wife has left him, and he continues to try to commit suicide. Duck has been on Wilby all his life, but he's somewhat of an outsider. He attempts to reach out to Dan.
What I liked about the production of the film:
I pretty much liked everything. There was great camerawork. Not quite arthouse, but not entirely commercial either. It was beautiful scenery being filmed, really awe inspiring. From a writing perspective, the beginning and conclusion or lack thereof in this film blew me away. Open beginning and open ending. It's not easy to do, and I have hated it before, but it really works this time around. The slowness of everything, and this includes the camerawork, the music, the unfolding of the narrative. The dialogue! For once, a film with really great dialogue and yet some sort of a working plot. And the pauses, the silence. The soundtrack. It's difficult to separate all of these details because they work together so well. It's pleasantly cohesive.
What I liked about the actors/characters and what happened in the film :
(this entire section is more rambley and less coherent)
I was so happy Buddy stopped his extra-marital relationship going any further than 'heavy petting in back alleys' as Sandra put it, and that he still clearly loved his wife despite their lack of communication. I loved how he figured out Maury Chaykin's evil plans and put a stop to them. Oh My God, he was so smart. He pleased me no end. Buddy really was a failed hero. Still a hero, but one with problems. Paul rocks. He should always play police officers, he looks too good in the uniform, way too good. After dS it looks like he's lost lots of weight. Towards the end of dS he got thin, actually... hmm.
In contrast, CKR has put weight on. Good, he needed it. Duck was ever watchful and lovely. I loved what he did for Dan Jarvis, and also Emily Anderson. At first I wasn't sure if he was just trying to help Dan because he knew he was trying to commit suicide, or whether there was something more there. I was glad it was something more. Awwww. Duck was so observant and touching. He didn't have to say anything, he said it all in gestures and gazes. Duck was the whole reason for it being "Wilby Wonderful" in the first place (but I loved that Buddy liked this better anyway). CKR plays gentle and nervous so well. He also rocks.
James Allodi as Dan was perfect - the right blend of tragedy and humour. He has such an expressive way of gazing. Ack. I felt for him so much, immediately. The progression of his failed suicides was both humourous and poignant. As an actor, Allodi really is extremely talented and now I want to see more of his performances. As a character, there was more there than someone attempting to commit suicide. The fact that the reasons for his wanting to do so (his wife left him because he was gay, and his name is apparently just about to be published amongst a list of people in the newspaper) being introduced only slowly really added depth to everything he does.
Daniel MacIvor - the writer and director, was fantastic as Buddy's stupid colleague. Hah. Stan was really just a manipulated fool, a poor police officer who deserved to be sacked for being strung along by Brent Fisher. MacIvor is a multi-talented man indeed.
Maury Chaykin is always good. I can't help but adore him so... he's in so many things I like. His comic stylings as Fisher were just right. Bleugh, I thought Brent was an extraordinarily weak man, but you were supposed to. He was a villain with evil plans, but really he was just a prat.
Sandra Oh was brilliant. She had me feeling for her character, when really all I wanted to do was grab her by the hair and tell her to look at her husband and realise he was trying to reach out to her. She really made Carol sympathetic, when you could have simply hated her for her cold callousness. I wanted to help Carol but I wanted to shout at her.
Rebecca Jenkins and Ellen Page were fantastic as the mother and daughter. Their relationship happily deviated from the stereotypical. We had some of the teenage angst, but really they were there for each other far more than other mother-daughter relationships of that kind depict. The conflict between them is important, but it doesn't overshadow everything else about those characters.
As a film, I thought it contained so little and so much, and this really appealed to me. The optimism, of course. I loved that more than anything. That Dan didn't die made me squeal in delight. That Buddy and his wife have a hope of reconciliation. That Sandra and Emily appear to be setting up a life in Wilby. That the Watch shall be left alone. That Dan and Duck (awww) may have a happy long-lasting relationship... it's all suggested and never said. Yay!
I could go further into what the film is saying about love, communication, prejudice, desperation et al, but I choose to openly ogle instead.
Buddy. Okay, perhaps not the best shot of him. But this is how we're first introduced to him, smoking on the porch.
Buddy again, expelling the smoke. I wish he didn't smoke, but he actually looks good when he does. The bastard.
Duck visiting Dan in hospital after Dan's final attempt at suicide (I hope... it's the end of the film, so who can really say, but I'd like to think that).
See? Potential there. Awwww.
These two did have a scene together but it was all done in shot reverse shot inside a car, so you never got one view of them in the same shot. However, they did have a scene together, so all is right with the world.
Well, that was good. Very enjoyable and I am pleasantly surprised. I wasn't actually expecting to like it so much. This wasn't another case of me suffering for the actors I love, it was another case of the actors I love bringing my attention to something wonderful.