Reg Harkema Monkey Warfare

Just when you thought that Canada was good for nothing but Degrassi and Peter Mansbridge, here comes this short sharp shock from veteran editor Reg Harkema. He takes us into the lives of ex-radicals Dan and Linda (Don McKellar and Tracy Wright), who for obscure reasons live off the grid and subsist on picking through garbage and garage sales for saleable collectibles. They’ve clearly fallen from their activist days and are now dependent on the very inflated commodity values against which they used to rail. Into their lives comes young, pretty pot dealer Susan (Nadia Litz), whom lecherous McKellar introduces to far-left agitation; to his horror, she starts her own terrorist organisation dedicated to the defacement of SUVs. Where the stalwart pair know the cost of impulsive destruction, the gung-ho youngster acts without thinking, which could spell disaster for the compromised duo. The film gives the impression of being about its Toronto location instead of just being set there — those of us who’ve been up close to embittered radicals or the gentrifying West Queen West know the forces that have shaped these people and the care with which Harkema has rendered them. Without a shred of pretension, the writer-director shows the cost of Canadian failure and guilt, as opposed to glumly depicting it; his film is blunt, smart, funny and goes a long way towards selling the very downbeat elements that have plagued this country’s cinema. Though it can’t find itself a satisfactory ending, it’s a scorching triumph right up to that point, and is worth either seeking out at the festival or rushing out to see in the one-week run to which I fear it is doomed. (Alliance Atlantis)