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film review

Adelaide Clemens and Patrick J Adams in The Swearing Jar.Courtesy of levelFILM

  • The Swearing Jar
  • Directed by Lindsay MacKay
  • Written by Kate Hewlett
  • Starring Adelaide Clemens, Patrick J Adams and Kathleen Turner
  • Classification N/A; 111 minutes
  • Opens in Toronto Nov. 4, Vancouver Dec. 2

Critic’s Pick


What if you found the love of your life, and then found another one? That’s the superficial starting point for the new Canadian romantic-comedy The Swearing Jar. But where it ends is more interesting than you might think.

The script, by Kate Hewlett (based on her play), announces its intention to disarm the moment we fade in, as a litany of filthy lyrics pours forth from the angel-faced, angel-voiced Carey (Adelaide Clemens, from the limited series Under the Banner of Heaven), who’s put together a concert at a bar to celebrate her husband Simon’s (Patrick J. Adams) 40th birthday. Her guitarist, Owen (Douglas Smith) keeps giving her puppy eyes, but Carey is singing about a good marriage, and we can tell she means every word.

So how did we get here? To find out, we flash back to Carey and Simon’s early, heady days of playing house, and Carey’s believably good (if slightly wary) relationship with Simon’s tart-tongued mother Bev (Kathleen Turner, employing every ounce of her worldly wisdom).

The Swearing Jar gives the romantic comedy genre an indie spin, with writer Kate Hewlett's dialogue feeling fresh and clever.Courtesy of levelFILM

If this were a generic rom-com, these scenes would be squished into a sparkly, wordless montage, but The Swearing Jar gives the genre an indie spin. Hewlett is smart enough to know that if she has a character say, “It’s a rare and miraculous thing to find your one true soulmate,” then she better show us some specifics in why these two particular people click like no others. And not just their physical sparks, but the ways in which they fight, and the things they say to make each other laugh.

She succeeds – her dialogue is fresh and clever. And though the romantic comedy (and the romantic weepie) has fallen out of favour, director Lindsay MacKay (Wet Bum) reminds us of the pleasure in watching two lovely people light each other from within.

But Carey is obviously drawn to Owen, too, and just as obviously pained about it. Smith is a tad too manic pixie dream boy for my taste, but it’s not a stretch to believe Carey would fall for him.

Then, at the midpoint, two things are revealed: one, Carey is pregnant. And two, I’m not going to tell you, because it’s a twist that actually works. It makes you rethink what you’ve just seen, and sends you into a movie you didn’t expect, though one equally thoughtful and full of feeling.

Although rom-coms have fallen out of favour, director Lindsay MacKay reminds us of the pleasure in watching two lovely people light each other from within.Courtesy of levelFILM