Radiant City Gary Burns and Jim Brown

Waydowntown’s Gary Burns and broadcaster Jim Brown turn their attention to the horror that is urban sprawl. Adopting a documentary pose, the film gathers a variety of experts to expound upon the phenomenon of the suburbs and their apparent unnaturalness, juxtaposing their remarks with an apparently average suburban family who exist in conflict with their environment.

Civic planners and analysts all weigh in on the consequences of the ’burbs’ two-car necessity (which will be unsustainable with a deepening energy crisis), the isolation of the occupants (who cannot create community in their alienated neighbourhoods), the short-changing of children (who have nowhere to create "personal sovereignty”) and the general hideousness of the landscape, not to mention the lone dissenter who claims sprawl just gives people what they want.

The family at the centre of the quasi-documentary are chomping at the bit; the hubby puts on a community theatre satire of suburbia to the annoyance of his true believer wife, while the kids, left with nothing better to do, just get into trouble. Late in the movie, the film pulls a surprise that blows the non-fiction cover, leading to a bewildering conclusion that would have been better served by a straight-up doc approach.

Still, the film delivers ample food for thought and is divided into segments that demonstrate various themes; it’s a user-friendly introduction to the forces that shape suburbia and the equal and opposite reaction of suburbia’s impact. Burns and Brown prove bright and sharp guides through the SUV jungle, never boring us with minutiae or leaving us in the dark. (Alliance Atlantis)