Published Nov 01, 2003The dysfunctional Field family weathers the end of the '60s in suburban Toronto under their tyrannical father Jim (Callum Keith Rennie) and depressed mother Mary (Miranda Richardson). The film centres on their three daughters: rebellious Lou (Katharine Isabelle), dutiful Norma (Monté Gagné) and pretty Sandy (Kirstin Adams). Though they live under one roof, each family member leads separate lives.
The only family scenes occur in flashback when Jim forces his brood to test their bomb shelter. Even here, the family is fractured. Lou takes up with an American anti-war protestor who drives a VW microbus and initiates her into pot, politics and acid. Sandy has an affair with a married man (surprisingly sleazy ex-Kid In the Hall Mark McKinney), Norma takes care of mother and house, and keeps alive the memory of their dead brother, who fell into Niagara Falls as a baby. Norma also strikes a friendship with a new neighbour girl, a subplot with lesbian undertones that never resolves itself.
Director Smith and screenwriter Spalding translate Gowdy's novel to the screen with energy and a sardonic humour, and the casting and performances are fine all around. Katharine Isabelle shines as the angry Lou, driving the film forward. While it's refreshing to find a '60s piece set in Canada and not America, the daughters' characterisations fall into cliché (rebel, beauty, dutiful). Also, father Jim is cold and mean throughout, with little dimension, while Mary is catatonic from start to end. The sparks only fly in the bomb shelter scenes when Mary challenges Jim. Those are Richardson's and the film's best moments. (Seville)