Published May 30, 2013A recent transplant to the sparsely populated Fort Simmer, Northwest Territories, alienated teenager Larry Sole (Joel Evans) notes in the opening voiceover that, beyond drinking and sports, there isn't much in the form of entertainment. His inner-dialogue guides our perspective of him in relation to the classmates he watches from afar, being harassed, insulted and pushed around when his efforts to evade them fail.
Adapted from the Richard Van Camp novel of the same name, The Lesser Blessed takes a decidedly less controversial approach to the material, still maintaining the metaphor of past scars as present day impediments, but dropping some of the more sensationalistic aspects, like Larry's background sniffing gasoline fumes and accidentally killing a group of cousins. Still, what happened in his past to leave him covered in burn marks, while doing his best to avoid thinking about them, is presented as a mystery and instigator of conflict, both internal and external.
As is the standard for the genre, particularly in relation to a Canadian cinematic context, where angry outsiders are presented as meek and resigned, his awakening stems from an external influence. A dynamic and irreverent personality, in the form of Johnny Beck (Kiowa Gordon), starts at his school, casually telling off teachers and intervening on a bit of casually bullying from generic popular douchebag Darcy McManus (Adam Butcher).
Their eventual friendship is presented with ambivalence, helping in the sense that Larry is forced out of his bedroom into a social setting, but also having hints at imbalance when Johnny casually starts screwing Juliet (Chloe Rose), a classmate Larry has been infatuated with since moving there. Johnny is fully aware of the situation, but just as he convinces his new friend to bring over food when he visits, kicking him out after his stomach is filled, there's a sense that our already damaged protagonist is being used.
Once things progress to the point of a drug montage, after a bit of hash smoking through a toilet paper roll incites a hip-hop soundtrack, it's clear that this moderately successful drama doesn't have a great deal to say. The repeating metaphor of bathing — cleansing the self of the past — is as laboured as the many quick anecdotes intended to convey the internal devastation, which doesn't quite translate on film.
But since the guiding voice is that of a teenager in crisis, this tendency to make things easily interpreted is understandable and tolerable, especially since Anita Doron's impressionistic approach to the material often rests upon images and moments to allow visuals and feelings to speak for themselves.
As such, there's a lyrical sensibility to it all that allows feelings to transcend the narrative limitations, which is a very smart approach to take with a story that doesn't add much to the cultural lexicon. (eOne)