Radiant City Gary Burns and Jim Brown

Radiant City Gary Burns and Jim Brown

The suburbs suck our souls, offer false illusions of community and are unsustainable on several levels. Is this news to anyone anymore? And yet many of us choose to live in these monocultures without asking important questions. As one of the astute onscreen pundits points out, social critics have been complaining about the suburbs for over 150 years, and they haven’t gone away. After all, developers wouldn’t keep building them if people didn’t choose to live there of their own free will. Radiant City confirms many of your worst suspicions of suburbia, although the shocker ending is a total red herring. Despite its tired subject, the film is impressive both visually and in its docudrama narrative approach, and doesn’t treat its characters with condescension, even if the filmmakers’ bias is obvious. The exact ratio of docu to drama isn’t revealed until the end, in a 20-minute coda that pulls back the curtain and, in lieu of any extras on this barebones DVD, stands in for any commentary or "making of” featurette. Though the endlessly sterile shots of suburban Calgary are depressing, the film concludes with one of the talking heads insisting that it is, in fact, possible to reinvent and retrofit suburban developments, a task that will be accelerated as soon as an energy crisis hits this continent. There are plenty of solutions to suburban malaise. One of the first is turning off your television and talking to your neighbours, or maybe projecting this film on your double garage door for the rest of the development to discover. Plus: trailer. (Alliance Atlantis)