Screening at The Rio on March 14th with writer/director Richard Bell, composer William Rowson and star Brendan Fletcher (The Revenant) in attendance.
1660 E Broadway
Coming to iTunes at end of month.
Canadian filmmaker Richard Bell‘s tale of survival is sombre and evocative. His movie set in a not-so innocent age in the early 20th century shows what a Brotherhood truly entails. Based on the real-life incident that occurred in Balsam Lake, Ontario in 1926, one ill-fated trip with far too many people in one canoe across the lake to gather supplies took a turn for the worst. High winds capsized the transport, and much like the Titanic, some took their chances in the cold waters (swimming to shore) and others clung on for dear life until only a few remained.
Creating the drama was tough. Without a strong plot, I thought I’d be watching a dreamy period piece about training the next generation of boys to be the best they can be. The hope is that one may become the next David Currie–recipient of the Victoria Cross (the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy). With this film, it’s more about how each man have to face his own fear and Nature. The camp leaders think the generation growing up is weak and this sojourn will toughen them up. The context is certainly foreshadowed. Bell provides all the key bits of narrative through flashbacks which recount the better days, the earlier days until the night of.
To contrast the present (the people on a sinking ship in the dead of night) to the past (where everyone is enjoying better days) defines this movie. Ultimately, the story is summarized with one simple line, “They are in a leadership camp after all.”
The skills they learned in the early part of the film helps them out during their worst hour. I don’t think it’s fair to rank performances because with a large ensemble, I’m sure Bell had them go camping for real to establish some real camaraderie before going into full production. We have Jake Manley (The Order) and Spencer Macpherson (Northern Rescue) in key roles. Camp leaders Arthur Lambden (Brendan Fletcher) and Robert Butcher (Brendan Fehr) are the tough as nails brass who are there to whip the boys to shape.
Ultimately, the boys who are to become men–and soldiers later on–are a band of brothers in that literal military sense. I can see one of them (had he survived) becoming an author to pen, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” While this quote is from Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, I feel it can be appropriated to describe the situation these lads end up in.
The story shares an uncanniness to how I feel survival at the trenches may have been during the Great War. Soldiers waited for the right time to retreat, and in returning home, the shell-shock is inevitable. At least for this film, this movie has to demonstrate something good, and by showing how resilient human nature can brilliantly be we can all have hope.