Published May 05, 2016The sheer size of our country has left an indelible imprint on Canadian cinema. Thanks to endless highways and huge swaths of unpopulated land, it seems like stories centered on road trips or adventures into the unknown are our production of choice (think 1970 classic Goin' Down the Road or, for something you can actually find on most streaming services, the Joshua Jackson-starring One Week).
Kire Paputts' 2015 TIFF selection The Rainbow Kid falls into this category, so it's fitting that in one of the first scenes here, we see the film's main character Eugene (Dylan Harman) watching CanCon classic The Littlest Hobo, a syndicated television show that feels spiritually connected to the film.
The Rainbow Kid is as progressive as it is rooted in the past. Harman stars as an 18-year-old boy living an impoverished existence with his depressed and unwell mother in Toronto's East End, who ventures away from the city in the hopes of finding a pot of gold hidden at the end of a rainbow. Eugene's naiveté is both plausible and believable because he has Down syndrome, an aspect of the storyline that helps make The Rainbow Kid unique; the drifters, vagrants and heartless characters he encounters along the way underestimate how intelligent, self-sufficient and sometimes cunning he is, helping to push the action along. In contrast, the people he meets who see past his genetic disorder aid in Eugene's overall character development (Canadian cinema and small screen staple Julian Richings, as a punk progenitor past his prime, has the most on-screen chemistry with Harman, as the two discuss girls, growing up and moving on).
Much like The Littlest Hobo, The Rainbow Kid is a rambling affair, with characters popping in and out to deliver their spiel about the state of the world. Sometimes they seem almost needlessly dark and depraved, which wouldn't be so bad if a lilting, twang-y theme didn't act as the movie's main music and make what follows some of the more sinister scenes (car crashes, homicidal home invasions and sexual abuse all rear their ugly head) feel a bit jarring. Still, Paputts doesn't seem too concerned with making an even-keeled plot or even a rewarding resolution by film's end. Like almost everything in life, it's the journey that matters most here, and as far as films go, The Rainbow Kid is a memorable trip.