French Canadian Folk Song
Un Canadien Errant
Went out last night and caught One Week an interesting Canadian made film. I want to spend a few paragraphs to discuss the film. Let me begin by saying I really enjoyed this film. It had most of the elements that impress me in movies: wide open spaces, fantastic music, a simple and subtle story, a little bit of the eccentric and the surreal, and some sadness. The story revolves around Ben Tyler (played by half Canadian Joshua Jackson) and a cross country road trip intitiated by a cancer diagnosis. Most of the cast is made up of Canadian musicans including cameos by Gord Downie, Joel Plaskett and Emm Gryner.
This is a throughly Canadian film. People from other countries won’t understand many of the references, from Tim Hortons to Canadian Tire to the omnipresent Steam Whistle. I read one review that claimed this film would appeal to those who think Canadian films are inherently superior to Hollywood. I am not one of those people (see my thoughts about Passchendale), but without knowing it Michael McGowan made a movie that specifically appeals to me. I love the basic premise of heading West, trying to stay one step ahead of the deadly disease that threatens to destroy Ben’s life. I loved the occasional mention of Grumps though I felt it was an angle that could’ve been fleshed out.
The story is narrated by what first appears to be an omnipresent viewer, but later turns out to be something else. When the narration began I groaned and thought, oh no please don’t ruin the film this way. I came to enjoy the random bits of information, including the vignettes explaining how Ben’s decisions touched other people’s lives. Yes that concept may be a little sappy, but in a film about a man facing his own mortality, I think it’s important to be reminded of the bigger picture. It would be easy to become lost in the hopelessness and the sadness of Ben’s predicament, yet at every turn the film wants the viewer to know that his cancer won’t be the end, at least not yet.
I could’ve done without the somewhat hackneyed cliche scene with Gord Downie. The old line about being in love, “if you have to ask, you’re not” is very overdone in film/television, and in life. I do appreciate that the love story was honest with itself. The filmmakers didn’t try to fix everything in the end, though somehow the outcome probably did anyway.
I mentioned the music earlier. Head here to check out tracks from the film. Much like another film I love, Things To Do, this film has a fantastic collection of indie rock. It also veers into country and folk at times, particularly for what must be the centrepiece song, Un Canadien Errant. Just like the film itself the soundtrack is thoroughly Canadian.
One Week has elements of many of the great road films of all time, but is set in Canada (unlike most of them). The visual journey makes the film worth watching. The enjoyable story and solid acting add beauty to the unbeatable canvas. A German tourist, late in the film remarks, “You live in one of the most beautiful countries in the whole world.” I’d recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a film that is not plot heavy, tells the tale of a journey, and most of all, to people who like Canada and Canadian films. I suspect that One Week will find itself up for a few Genie Awards next year, and without knowing the field I bet any win is well deserved.