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Who Loves the Sun

Directed and written by Matt Bissonnette

Starring Lukas Haas, Molly Parker, Adam Scott, R.H. Thomson and Wendy Crewson

Classification: 14A

Rating: ***

Montreal-born filmmaker Matt Bissonnette makes his solo directing debut with Who Loves the Sun, a gentle, often funny chamber piece in which his wonderful cast works out family problems against the stunning backdrop of Canadian cottage country.

The film takes its apt title from a poignant Velvet Underground song that, while it is never heard, must have informed the mood Bissonnette wanted to create (and does) in his story of the repercussions of and recovery from romantic heartbreak.

Will Morrison (Lukas Haas) makes an unexpected visit to the island summer cottage of Mary (Wendy Crewson) and Arthur Bloom (R.H. Thomson), the parents of his best friend Daniel (Adam Scott), with whom we sense he had a falling out. Will, whose father split when he was young, has been out of the picture for five years. But when Arthur, assuming a fatherly tone, grills him on his whereabouts and activities, Will, sullen almost to the point of rudeness, answers "travelling around" and "nothing."

Will livens up considerably after the arrival the next day of Daniel (secretly invited by his mother), whose recent best-selling novel, Summer Babe, is being made into a movie. Almost immediately, the estranged friends begin verbally and even physically brawling like brothers. Turns out, five years ago at the cottage, Will caught his wife having sex with his best friend, which set him on his wanderings.

When Will's wife Maggie (Molly Parker) shows up the next day, we realize Mary is trying to orchestrate a reconciliation. In the film's second "movement," the three thirtysomething friends interact in pairs, expressing their anger, disappointment and yearning. Bissonnette has some fun with Daniel's WASPy parents (in one scene they are tucked in bed reading, while a drunken, distraught Daniel turns up the volume on the porn channel) but otherwise breaks the stereotypical plot points usually encountered in this kind of film. Revelation, not reconciliation, is the real turning point; a deep family secret surfaces that will change the lives of all five players.

The film's lean, engaging script and fine nuanced performances are enhanced by Arthur E. Cooper's gorgeous cinematography and original music by Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and Merge Records. For those who measure their lives by summers spent at the cottage, Who Loves the Sun strikes a lovely, wistful note as the last layer of ice still melts on the lake.

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