Down to the Dirt Justin Simms

Down to the Dirt Justin Simms
Justin Simms' low budget feature debut is true to its title; it's a dirty little romantic ode to the armpit of Newfoundland. Keith (Joel Hynes) and Natasha (Mylene Savoie) are a couple of unemployment cheque-cashing shit disturbers and rebellious lost souls. A few glances early on spark a raucous romance - think Newfoundland's version of Kurt and Courtney.

Simms' uncompromising and pessimistic small town, "the Cove," actually provides a fresh environment for Canadian cinema. The speech patterns of the characters are so far removed from familiar Canadian speak that it feels like another country. In fact, the strong accents sound more Irish than North American. And so from the opening scenes it takes just a few lines of dialogue for Simms to establish his credible and authentic setting.

When Keith and Natasha meet, the bloom of love shines through and blinds them from their despair and disillusionment. Suddenly there's more to life than just stumbling around in a drunken, angry stupor. A key event of conflict at the midway point breaks them - a particularly disturbing incident with their precious cat. It's a difficult scene to take but it shows the effect of their irresponsible and poisonous relationship.

Eventually Natasha leaves Keith and moves to Halifax, unfortunately Nova Scotia is not nearly as interesting as Newfoundland and neither are our main characters when they aren't together. Keith's adventures with a street prostitute and Natasha's date with a clichéd, obnoxious businessman stall the film at the point when tensions should rise. Instead it's a steady deflation to a soft whimper in the end.

Simms' grimy exterior will make it difficult for lay audiences to penetrate, assuming they even make it past the cat scene, but after chipping away the surface they might find a surprisingly tender love story. (Mongrel Media)