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film review

A scene from “Foreverland”

The road trip has been a dramatic staple for so long in so many formats that whenever a novelist, playwright, poet or filmmaker attempts his or her variation on it, it's a flirtation with the contempt often bred by familiarity.

Still, as with any real-life road trip, hope springs eternal, especially at the start when anticipation and promise are all. Sadly, Foreverland, a debut feature from Ottawa-born director Maxwell McGuire, pretty much sputters from the get-go. It's the story of Will, a 21-year-old Vancouverite living (barely) with cystic fibrosis who's charged with taking the ashes of a recently deceased friend/fellow C.F. sufferer named Bobby to Mexico's Baja peninsula where they're to be scattered over "a sacred salt pond" touted to have miraculous powers. Accompanying the initially reluctant Will (Max Thieriot) on the 3,500-kilometre trek is Bobby's comely, auburn-haired sister Hannah (Laurence Leboeuf ).

It's an earnest, passionate piece of filmmaking, not least because McGuire himself has C.F. and started work on what is clearly a labour of love almost eight years ago, in his early 20s. However, sincerity isn't enough of an aesthetic virtue to drive McGuire's vehicle into any particularly fresh or compelling territory.

Instead, Foreverland hits pretty much every "sign" that every other road-trip drama has bumped into over the eons. But since Foreverland is a 21st-century road movie, McGuire and novice screewriter Shawn Riopelle strive to gild its familiar tropes with flourishes of quirk. So we get Will and Hannah seeking shelter from his Aunty Vicky, a New Age zealot played by one of the great queens of cinematic quirk, Juliette Lewis (looking every one of her 39 years).

Later in Mexico, the duo – who are lovers by this time, natch – meet up with Salvador, the keeper of the sacred pond. Predictably, the pond doesn't quite live up to advance billing, while Salvador, played by Oscar nominee Demian Bishir, seems more beer-swilling, money-grubbing charlatan than holy man. Bishir, in fact, is the best thing in Foreverland, just off-kilter enough to relieve both film and viewer from the lightness of familiarity.