Published May 29, 2014There are essentially two levels of persuasion at play in Toronto-born director Don McKellar's The Grand Seduction, a remake of the 2003 Quebec film La grande seduction. First, there is the courtship taking place in the film itself, in which the few holdouts still living in a crumbling Newfoundland harbour attempt to convince a young doctor to stay on permanently so that they can win a bid for a chemical recycling plant. Then you have the second seduction, in which the film itself attempts to delight the audience so that it looks past how implausible the premise is while falling for it at the same time. Fortunately, McKellar and the merry men and women of Tickle Head harbour are all quite the charmers.
This is a trickier sell than you might think. There is danger, in telling the story of "simple folk," of oversimplifying their lives to the point that they are no longer people but rather just jokes put on display for a "sophisticated" audience's amusement. The people of Tickle Head are very real though, even though Tickle Head itself is not. (It is actually loosely based on Tickle Cove, NL.) Led by Brendan Gleeson and Canadian Screen Award winner for Best Supporting Actor Gordon Pinsent, the men and women of this harbour live welfare cheque to welfare cheque. With no hope for new work in sight, many are leaving for the mainland to find work, breaking families apart and threatening the harbour's very existence. This harsh reality inspires great sympathy for their plight and even greater support for their cause, so by the time they get up to all of their ridiculous shenanigans, viewers are much more likely to forgive their misguided ways.
Taylor Kitsch, of such box office disasters like John Carter and Battleship, plays the good doctor, and it's incredibly refreshing to see him in such a relaxed role for a change. As he slowly falls in love with this genuinely endearing harbour, so will you. Unlike the doctor, though, you won't need to be duped into loving it.