Published Apr 01, 2011Shot in London, ON by first-time feature director Jennifer Kierans, The Bend reeks of modest Canadian cinema, having a core theme of confusion and alienation, with tenuous, almost diffident direction and an abundance of stilted conversations where characters lay out their personas and motivations in a concise, unrealistic manner. It's the sort of film that comes from English-speaking Canada often, having its heart and sensibilities in the right place, but lacking the confidence and vision to communicate its intended point effectively.
Said point has to do with the effects of tragedy and mental illness on a family, with 17-year-old Jason Campbell (Adam Butcher) struggling with the suicide of his older brother at the one-year memorial service. Questioning the idea of depression as a hereditary illness, he manipulates his deceased brother's girlfriend, Kelly (Sophie Traub), and best friend, Scott (Tommy Lioutas), into an evening of drinking at the local high school in an effort to recreate, and understand, the night of his brother's death.
In theory, the revisiting of a traumatic, life-changing moment through unconventional means could work on a narrative and thematic level, exposing character insecurities and repressed feelings via confrontation, removing the safety net of social vices.
But Kierans never knows what to do with these three characters, having everyone literally define their archetypes through exposition while engaging in incidental conversation that doesn't seem remotely natural. They never seem comfortable with each other or say anything that doesn't relate to location or set up, commenting on the aesthetic of the teachers' lounge, the old lockers or the cheesiness of a song playing.
There's something very strained about each moment that leaves the young actors with very little to expand upon through performance. And while they do show glimmers of talent – in particular Sophie Traub – it's nearly impossible for them to do any subtle emoting when the script has them either screaming or describing their psychology like a one-sheet character breakdown. (Kinosmith)