You could be forgiven for thinking all Canadian film is slow moving atmospheric character driven fare after having seen only Wilby Wonderful (2004) and Flower and Garnet (2002). Perhaps this is a true assessment, just as is the case of the many 1970s South Australian films, or maybe it's just Callum Keith Rennie. If he's not playing psychopaths or cute cops, he's in slow moving atmospheric character driven fare.
I didn't like Flower and Garnet nearly as much as Wilby Wonderful, but it's impossible to satisfactorily compare the two. As a great writer once said, it's not so much a case of apples and oranges or cats and dogs, as it is apples and dogs.
The film mostly follows Garnet (Colin Roberts). Garnet was born as the result of a complicated childbirth, so much so that his mother died. His father clearly wants to leave him at the hospital. His 8 year old sister Flower (Jane McGregor) brings him back home from a friend's house. 8 years on and we now see that Garnet is not exactly your average 8 year old boy. He lays in the dirt, licks it, spits it out. He collects worms. He collects some other things too. His father Ed (Callum Keith Rennie) does not talk to him. His sister does her best, but she is 16 and needs to start thinking of herself. Garnet is also not easy to care for - he is always sullen, quiet and reclusive.
Really what we have is the story of a broken family who live in a small town in British Columbia. Ed is an emotional stonewall, who does not know his children and clearly underestimates their intelligence and maturity. He doesn't display any signs of love towards Garnet whatsoever, and he reaches out to the boy by buying him a BB gun for his birthday - a gun. Because every already emotionally unstable boy needs a gun... Garnet is closeted, with no apparent friends, and caught up in his own world. Flower is angry at her father for his emotional inadequacies, unable to cope with raising Garnet as a mother could, and dealing with her own issues of growing up.
Flower becomes pregnant from a relationship with a boy who typically runs out on her. She is adamant she is going to keep her child. Ed wants her to 'consider her options'. She moves out of the house. Now Garnet really is alone, and he does not cope well. He take's Ed's handgun. He begins shooting dead birds and collecting them. He then shoots a dog. And pulls a gun on the house keeper Ed hires. He shoots his hand. This is an 8 year old child.
The acting in this film was brilliant - truly brilliant. Callum as Ed was so infuriating, to the point where you desperately want to be able to enter the diegetic world and tell him to get his fucking act together. But it's a top-notch performance, and there's this scene where he just cries - cries and it's completely cathartic and you want to cry too. He looked like a father, which was nice. Even if he was a bad father, he looked like a father. Colin Roberts is going to be an extraordinary actor as he grows up, if he continues acting I mean. He has an exceptionally good delivery of lines, and his blank curious expressions were spot on. Jane McGregor is gorgeous and should definitely go far.
It was a perplexing film, a moving film - but certainly worrisome and depressing as films go. You spend a great deal of it hoping that the worst scenarios in your head don't play out, and disturbingly, in one or two places they do. The film deals with grief, loss and love with a soft, slow persistence.
The cinematography, camerawork and soundtrack were of the highest quality. There were select scenes and shots which were simply breathtaking.
I don't really think it's a film I could say I enjoyed. I like it, but I didn't enjoy it. It's not something I'm going to be feeling the need to watch any time soon, anyway. It's emotionally draining, and really makes you think - so as an artistic film, it does an exceedingly good job.
From Here, a small slice of Callum's journal revolving around the shooting of the film.
CKR: May 2001. Think I’m too old for Garnet. He’s eight in the script. I think I can play ten if I shave. I’m struck by the structure of the piece. It’s very sophisticated and well crafted. I tell Liz that I’m interested.
Heh, he's so cute.
CKR: November 13. I try to put myself in the mood for the funeral scene, but a wind comes up off the lake and blows my soul right out of my body. I spend the rest of the show trying to get it back.
Flower, Ed and Garnet opening Garnet's birthday present.
What better way to reach out to your young child than to teach him how to shoot things?
In this scene, Garnet is lying in a crib with Ed's handgun in front of him. The camera pans slowly around the edge of the crib. I spent the whole time being terrified the little mite had shot himself. He hadn't. Finally Ed is talking to Garnet and admitting it's his fault. He apologises. It's all very emotional. Apparently Callum was doing this scene with the director standing (lying) in for Colin, because as a child actor he could only be on set a certain number of hours a day. You'd never have known.
Yes, hug your son you emotionally stunted arsehole (can you tell this character really pissed me off?)
Well, that was interesting. I love learning through fandom. I also love this Canadian icon that grrliz made me.