If you ever noticed a guy sitting on the edge of the pier at Trout Lake Park paddling for hours on his own, that was Taku Hokoyama. Taku was preparing to paddle across the boreal forest of Manitoba and Ontario with his friend Frank Wolf, an experienced outdoorsman and the director of the film Borealis. Frank’s the kind of mountain man who revels in a challenge and I could imagine him in the wilderness on his own searching for the northwest passage. Frank and Taku paddle and portage for seventy five days and cover a few thousand kilometres. It’s exhausting just watching them but the two always have high spirits, even when stuck in their mosquito suits amongst a bloodthirsty horde.
The intention is to show the splendour of the boreal forest which is one of the world’s most important ecosystems. The pair pass from pristine lakes and rivers to areas devastated by pollution and overdamming and explain that government and industry are always looking to expand further into the forest. My only complaint was that we saw plenty of the guys’ antics but not quite enough of the animal and landscapes along the way.
It is hard not to like When Life Was Good, even though there is often something amateurish and insular about Vancouver films (it reminded me of two other Vancouver films I liked - Reg Harkema’s A Girl is a Girl and Blaine Thurier’s Male Fantasy). It has a slightly improvised feel, as if the director (Terry Miles) created three main characters and just had them run with it. Casey and Faith are a young slick boho couple living in one of those new downtown glass towers. How they afford this, I don’t know. Faith is a ballerina with a past eating disorder and Casey is an aspiring writer trying to work his way up the ladder. Into this mix comes Brooklyn, a friend who lives in New York but still has a hometown boyfriend. She’s come to visit but decides she can’t quite stand the idea of him and hides out on Casey and Faith’s couch for a few weeks. Kristine Cofsky is charming and comfortable in this role. Her performance really works, and so do the interesting jumps and cuts in the editing and the believable way in which the characters are often at a loss for words.
It’s a very funny film, but most of the comedy is provided by a string of outrageous characters while our heroes play the straight man role. The wacky agent, director and actors that our wannabes meets aren’t realistic at all but it isn’t that outlandish to presume that everyone else is the world might seem nuts to them.