Published Jun 01, 2004As many boring Canadian stories go, especially ones that you're just waiting to hit you over the head with "after school special" morals, it isn't director Nathaniel Geary's debut feature's plot that distinguishes his film from many of the bad ones in such a dubious legacy. The talent of Geary is his assurance in the story he wrote based on seven years of work at an East side Vancouver hotel and his consequent willingness to provide strong roles to a dedicated supporting cast.
Ostensibly the story of Angel (Alex Rice), a young drug addicted prostitute living in a seedy east side Vancouver hotel, Geary introduces us to both well established minor characters and a self-suffocating main cast, including Angel's running mate Stacey (Katharine Isabelle) and her junkie boyfriend Cliffie (J.R. Bourne). When Angel's native brother Randy (Simon Baker) arrives from Prince Rupert looking for a place to stay in Vancouver, courtesy of his big sister, he's idealistic about his chances of finding his unknown father, as well as starting a new life. But soon Randy is hooked on the dream of a relationship with Stacey, as well as the dope he deals (and trades with Cliffie) to make a living.
The strong ensemble effort by all of the seasoned actors, facing rather difficult subjects, is the film's most impressive attribute, only rarely missed emotionally by being slightly overplayed, notably in the stereotypical Cliffie. But the crafting of a solid pace and great sound transitions by editor Michael Brockington take advantage of Geary's observationally fluid camerawork, which captures a fresh choreography of the characters in the space of his frame.
The comparison between life in the city (and in a hotel, in particular) for the naïve Randy and the now veteran Angel provides a strong contrast between Angel's incentive to remove herself from a vicious self-destructive cycle at the same time that Randy is caught up in his own downward spiral, faced with the realisations Alex must have once made herself. Though the film could use a stronger sense of specific time to go along with its dynamic sense of place, On The Corner is a unique look into an oft-neglected reality. (TVA)