The Right Way
Written and directed
by Mark Penney
Starring Karyn Dwyer
and Jefferson Brown
There's been a disturbing trend lately of Canadian films that are actually making money at the box office - outside Quebec, that is. Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie and Away from Her are recent success stories. But like the overheated economy and the soaring loonie, it's time for a correction. The good times just can't last.
Enter twentysomething Canadian director Mark Penney with an old-fashioned, grim Canadian movie that, frame by frame and line by line, has no shot at the box office or even the sparsely attended but de rigueur week at the Carlton cinema. It is screening tonight and tomorrow at Camera Bar in Toronto's west end, which should just about cover the courier cost of sending DVD copies to the press.
It's a shame because, despite its paramount flows, The Right Way marks the birth of a promising young director who can sustain enough darkness and despair for 80 minutes to make early Atom Egoyan look like a lost Wayne and Shuster special. Penney's tale of woe has it all: drugs, suicide, abortion, suburban alienation and abusive parents who tell their children they're too lazy to wipe their own asses.
After meeting in some suburban dive, Amy (Karyn Dwyer) and David (Jefferson Brown) establish an unlikely emotional connection. "At least he's got dreams," Amy, a painter, says of wannabe poet and songwriter David. Blame it on their parents: Amy's mother is a junkie whose only notable record is 23 years of child neglect; David's father, a man who defines himself by his work ethic, has been on his case to find a job. When Amy gets pregnant, David's hysterical reaction leads to a more tragic turn of events.
It takes more than tragic outcomes to make a tragedy, however. That's where The Right Way takes the first of its many wrong turns. Without gritty writing or psychologically complex performances, the pain and agony that Amy and David go through leave them stranded somewhere between histrionics and petulance. Penney, who also wrote the script, makes the rookie mistake of piling up details that confirm a forgone conclusion.
Although The Right Way looks like someone uploaded 80 minutes of home video onto YouTube - the film was shot in 10 days in Brampton, Ont., for less than $10,000 - it is not without visual flourishes. A striking montage of suburban images does more to situate the characters' world than any words Penney has put in their mouths.