Michael Hayward's Blog

VIFF 2016: "Weirdos"

Michael Hayward

Shades of Goin' Down the Road (1970): with Bruce McDonald's Weirdos we have another example of that favourite genre, the Canadian road movie, filmed in black & white to better emphasize the fact that we're dealing with a nostalgic past.

The film follows 15-year-old Kit and his girfriend Alice (played by Vancouver native Julia Sarah Stone, who does a wonderful job) as they run away from home in Antigonish, NS, and try to hitchhike to the big city of Sydney, where Kit's mother, the glamorous and artistic Laura, lives.

Weirdos is an affectionate look back at a specific time and place. It's the kind of movie that you could imagine watching on the CBC of twenty years ago, offering a relatively safe take on issues that could have been (and probably were) much more difficult and painful for those who actually lived through them in any small rural town back in the 1970s: the feeling of being trapped in a small town, while you long to experience a life of glamour and excitement elsewhere; the divided loyalties that come from growing up with parents who'd divorced; and the turmoil as you come to grips with your own sexuality, and the accompanying threats of shaming and ostracism by one's peers.

The first half of Weirdos is somewhat predictable and "by the numbers," but the film really hits its stride when Kit finally reunites with his free-spirit (but unstable) mother, Laura, played by Molly Parker. Periodically throughout the film a "spirit animal" version of Andy Warhol appears, offering laconic advice to Kit; this device, though, doesn't really work, and feels like an awkward gimmick.

In the Q&A following the film director Bruce McDonald talked about the decision to make the film in black & white: it was primarily a budgetary one, a simple and inexpensive way to situate the film in a specific period (he joked that their budget was so small that they could only afford "a couple of [period] cars, a TV, and a fridge").

The soundtrack is jam-packed with songs that will send anyone who lived through that era into a time warp: "Last Song" by Edward Bear; "Carry Me" by The Stampeders; "Oh What a Feeling" by Crowbar; Gordon Lightfoot's "Summer Side of Life"; and of course: "Snowbird" by Anne Murray.

You can watch a teaser for the film here.

Weirdos has one more VIFF screening at 1:00 p.m. October 5th, 2016, at the Playhouse



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