Canadian director John Greyson's new film is an interesting story of love and hate set against the backdrop of small-town Ontario and a never-ending Gulf War. Based on the book by Dale Peck, it features the lives of the same couple at the beginning and end of their relationship. Sarah Polley and Brendan Fletcher play the young Beatrice and Henry, and Diane Ladd and Sean McCann as the older Bea and Hank. Both the young and old versions of the couple turn in excellent performances. Polley's Beatrice as the young cashier who falls for cancer victim Henry and starts following him almost to the point of stalking, is a poignant expression of young love. This performance juxtaposed against Ladd's Bea, who methodically takes out her hatred on Hank while maintaining her disposition, is disquieting to say the least. In turn, his seething frustration with her actions, usually the changing of building plans of their retirement log cabin, fills the screen. Brendan Fletcher's young Henry is convincing as the lonely teenager facing death who at first resists the advances of Polley, only to slowly fall for her as his possible death looms. Shirley Douglas, as the older couple's trailer-dwelling, chain smoking friend Myrah, is another one of the high points of the film. The story hints at a past affair between Hank and Myrah, which Bea has never gotten over, and only serves to heighten the tension. Mixed in throughout is constant television footage of Gulf War bombing as a metaphor for the conflict between the characters. The film's flaws lie in its length and the feeling of coldness it leaves you with. At almost two hours, it tends to drag at times, and when you think it's about to end, it stretches even further. Even though the story is about how loving relationships can disintegrate into hateful ones, Greyson tends to be too cynical in his treatment of the characters. And when the audience is given some hope as the film winds down, tragedy strikes, effectively cancelling it out.
Published Feb 01, 2000