Directed by Michael McGowan
Starring Joshua Jackson, Liane Balaban
Opening Night Film, 2009 Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival, Dendy Opera Quays.
There is something about travelling the open road that must seem to filmmakers a sure premise for the liberation of their audiences. Ideally it would seem that seeing a fellow human being cast off their cares and responsibilities to leave behind material wealth and a complacent existence for a grand adventure will pull them out the door by their heartstrings and have them immediately changing their lives. Even if only in their minds. At the very least surely the romanticisation of the road’s carefree nature hopes to urge viewers to question the validity of how they spend their time, money and energy from day to day. One Week, the opening film of the Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival is an extreme case of this classic theme, and pleads for the open road with a unique simplicity and a shameless love of Canada.
The title of the film refers to the weeklong trip that Ben (Joshua Jackson) takes after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that he is told probably won’t recover from. Against the wishes of his fiancée and family, Ben forgoes treatment and obliges an old man who suggests that he should buy his old motorcycle. He later agrees with a note on his coffee cup that tells him to travel west. These are merely the beginnings of many uncontrollable factors which spur him on and act to change his course and have him linger on many interesting locations to experience the beautiful and bizarre locals. What he is hoping to achieve by this is to live the life that he decides he has missed through always selling himself short and never committing to anything. “I need to do this…I need to have an adventure” he tells his teary fiancée (Liane Balaban).
The story is told by an omniscient narrator sombrely provided by Campbell Scott, who rolls out the moral and philosophical questions that are being argued on the screen while pointing out various ironies to provide the comic relief. The major question he asks is of course: what would you do if you only had one week to live? (A question that Ben also asks the locals during his travels). This makes for some compelling roadside episodes as Ben “embraces randomness” as the narrator calls it. But aside from the touching moments Ben has, what will stay with viewers are the vast, stunningly beautiful Canadian environments that act to amplify the isolation of the open road, as well as the Canadian people who naturally counteract it. The matter-of-fact kindness of the Canadian people that is represented here won’t make you sick because it is done in a way that is never too serious and always brings a laugh or smile.
There are many reasons why this film deserves a greater audience than it will probably get. Joshua Jackson turns in a solid performance on his home ground after escaping the pit of Hollywood b-grade hell. The soundtrack is great with fashionably obscure contemporary indie/pop-rock, mixed with more meaningful Canadian folk songs (a performance by Halifax veteran songwriter Joel Plaskett is a nice touch). Though the film is poignant and heartening, almost every stylistic aspect and character of the film keeps it comical and childish, and has one of those endings that you will either really love or really love to hate. So everybody wins right? If you can stomach the invasive pro-Canadian travelogue feel that underlies One Week, you will be rewarded with an uncomplicated road movie that implores you to leave the beaten track and make up for lost time.
You will love this if: The self-help books don’t work, the motivational speakers haven’t made sense and you would rather just ride a motorcycle to figure it out.
You will hate this if: You’re tired of all those ‘what would you do if…’ scenarios that keep getting peddled like inspirational road movies.
Possible Worlds, Canadian Film Festival is on until Wednesday 26th August, with tickets only $12 and many films having free drinks on arrival! For more information, full program and to book tickets visit: http://www.possibleworlds.net.au/