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  • Country USA
  • Language English

Let Him Be

  • Written and directed by Peter McNamee
  • Starring Kathleen Munroe, Sean Clement, Mark Staycer and Graham Wignall
  • Classification: 14A

Is John Lennon alive and well and living in rural Ontario? That's the question an obsessed film undergrad and his reluctant girlfriend set out to answer in Let Him Be , a flawed but earnest and sometimes engaging low-budget feature by Peter McNamee that did a spin through a handful of Canadian festivals last year.

Tim (Sean Clement), an aspiring documentarian who repairs used gear to make a few extra bucks, finds a tape left in a video camera his father bought at a yard sale on his way home from a fishing trip. The tape contains footage of a guy with long hair, a hooked nose and wire-framed glasses strumming and singing at a kid's party - he looks and sounds remarkably like John Lennon, albeit older than when he was last seen alive. After researching conspiracy theories, Tim convinces himself Lennon survived the murder attempt and escaped to Canada, for which he was known to have great affection.

With visions of hitting the big time if he can break this "story," Tim convinces his live-in girlfriend Kathleen (Kathleen Munroe), also an aspiring filmmaker, to spend a weekend with him searching cottage country north of Toronto for hard evidence. Quite conveniently, Tim's father remembers the area where he bought the video camera, and Tim's uncle, who sells surveillance equipment, lends him a ton of high-tech stealth gear.

The students eventually find a small town that yields results. Introducing themselves as filmmakers shooting a documentary about small-town life, they interview a shopkeeper and local musicians who jam with a songwriter called Noel Snow (Mark Staycer), a chain-smoking, semi-reclusive fellow who lives on a posh estate with Stanley (Graham Wignall), a Brit of the same vintage. Tim's theory is starting to look good.

Kathleen remains skeptical but agrees to stay on longer. While Tim breaks into the house and sets up hidden cameras that feed footage back to a computer, Kathleen plays lookout. Then Noel and Stanley drive by and invite her back to the house. She starts visiting Noel every day, going for long walks, reading books he recommends and listening to his very Lennon-esque original songs. Tim hides in the bushes filming them, and (mostly) hangs out in his makeshift headquarters with the blinds drawn, watching the collected footage for evidence that Noel is John - and completely missing Kathleen's growing affection for the guy.

This goes on for a month, which is, well, preposterous.

Let Him Be is constructed like a documentary Tim has assembled from the footage, and it relies too heavily on voiceover for explanation. Throughout the film we're asked to swallow too many coincidences for the story to proceed. The pair's ruse is overly complex, and it's difficult to believe the film students don't get caught - especially in a small town whose inhabitants are portrayed as intelligent people.

Still, the film has its qualities. Among them: Staycer holds your attention as the older Lennon look-alike, and many of the polished original songs (co-written by McNamee) have both the melodic and lyrical qualities of Lennon's solo music.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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