Published Mar 15, 2016Following his 2015 TIFF selection, the visually stunning but somewhat disappointing small-town horror Hellions, Canadian film great Bruce McDonald returns to the road and his roots (his sophomore effort, Roadkill, premiered at the Toronto festival in 1989, winning Best Canadian Feature Film and starting him on the highway to indie cinema stardom) with Weirdos, an emotionally charged coming-of-age kitchen-sink drama set in 1970s Nova Scotia.
Reuniting with legendary writer Daniel MacIvor (who previously partnered with the filmmaker on the 2011 music drama Trigger), the black and white film follows two teens (Wet Bum's Julia Sarah Stone as Alice and The Husband's Dylan Authors as Kit) who hitchhike from Antigonish to Sydney one summer weekend, and make some stunning realizations about themselves, society and their relationship along the way.
Loosely based on MacIvor's own experiences growing up gay in Cape Breton, Weirdos is a tender reflection on the confusion that comes with age, as all of its characters, in one form or another, struggle to make sense of the world around them; the province's isolation, documented with long stretches of winding asphalt and ho-hum homes, adds to the feeling. While not as immediately gratifying or visceral as McDonald's more rock'n'roll-charged classics, fans of his early work — and that of Stephen McHattie and Molly Parker (frequent collaborators who show up here to help move the story along) — will see this as a homecoming for cast and crew.
It's the film's two young leads who steal the spotlight, though, showcasing skills that rival actors twice their age (particularly Stone, whose calm and collected portrayal of Alice, a teen who finds herself in multiple situations way beyond her maturity level, slowly becomes the focal point of the movie). Similarly, Rhys Bevan-John steals the show as Andy Warhol's spirit, an apparition who occasionally appears to help guide Kit on his journey, and is so beguiling you'll wonder why he didn't get more screen time.
Behind the scenes, the fact this was filmed in Nova Scotia during the start of the tax credit controversy is not only a big "fuck you" to the provincial government, but acts as a punk-rock rallying cry for other independent filmmakers in the country. (Films We Like)