Published Nov 01, 2000The bleak world of interconnected downtown skyscrapers, apartment complexes, and food courts is the backdrop for "Waydowntown," the latest offering from Canadian indie director Gary Burns ("The Suburbanators," "Kitchen Party"). Tom (Fabrizio Filippo), Sandra (Marya Delver), Curt (Gordon Curry), Randy (Tobias Godson) are four bored 20-something office mates who make a bet to see which one of them can remain the longest inside the hermetically sealed downtown core without ever venturing outside. The action all takes place on day 24 of the wager, when all four are beginning to show significant signs of strain as they struggle with recycled air, fast food, and limited contact with the outside world.
Burns does extremely well in creating the cold, claustrophobic environment by shooting most of the film on digital video and maximising the austere aesthetic of that medium. The lighting palette consists of sickly blues, greens and yellows, perfectly capturing the fluorescent hell of the office tower. A good sense of being trapped in these artificial surroundings is created by viewing the environment through the eyes of Tom (the film's narrator), whose distanced perspective coupled with his occasional hallucinations guide the viewer through the film. The dialogue of witty, empty banter works effectively to emphasise the repetitive, meaningless interactions that the characters spend their lives engaged in, though some of the narration in the script is a tad awkward and overwritten.
The problem with this film is that the characters are almost entirely unsympathetic. This works better for the more over-the-top characterisations of Sandra and Curt, whose claustrophobic hysteria and uncontrollable libido respectively make for comical caricatures. Tom, however, is supposed to be the moral centre of the film who grows increasingly disgusted with his own desensitisation, but his perpetual distance never allows his crisis of conscience to be quite believable, making his eventual redemption ineffectual.