Reviewed by Vivian Moreau
Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant is a neighbourhood that encompasses
what has been described as the prettiest block in the city. With its narrow,
tree-lined streets, turn-of-the-last century homes and sweeping views of the
North Shore mountains, its charm has prompted young families to move to its
reasonably affordable housing.
But as director Ross Weber points out in
, it is also a fringe neighbourhood, frequented by
sex trade workers, druggies and grocery cart-pushing homeless. It’s a
tectonic-plate pushing mix of society that often grate against each other, with
follows the interconnections between three couples who live in or are affected
by the neighbourhood’s duplicity. Stay-at-home dad Doug and addictions
counsellor Sarah have just moved into a tiny alley-lined bungalow with
preschool daughter Courtney. A few blocks away is Nadia, a teenage heroin
addict turned prostitute who supports her equally addicted desultory boyfriend,
Nick. Indulging in Nadia on a regular basis is Point Grey realtor Steve, limpid
before his rigid, narrow, do gooder wife, Anne. Rounding out this six degrees
of separation crew is Megan, Steve and Anne’s emerging teen daughter.
The taut framework that connects the three couples is tightened
to inquisition intensity after Courtney pricks herself on a needle tossed in an
alley beside her house. Stalwart Doug becomes an empathetic neighbourhood
vigilante, joining night patrols, shooing away dumpster divers, and confronting
SUVs parked behind his house that contain, you guessed it, Steve and Nadia.
As Nadia lists between wanting to flee her drug-addled life and
being increasingly drawn to it, Anne bitchily raises money for a new drug
treatment centre while cutting her supposedly impotent husband and achingly shy
but luminous daughter off at the knees, and Doug and Sarah discover just who is
the rock and who is the wall, the camera follows relentlessly, duplicating
Vancouver’s ubiquitous flat planes of steel blues and grey.
Weber has pulled admirable, solid performances from O.C.’s
Kelly Rowan as the icy but ultimately fragile Anne, DaVinci veteran Ben Ratner
as Doug, the father determined to defend his tender family turf, and
18-year-old Katie Boland as the husky-voiced, musky-haired Nadia, a girl who’s
learned too much too fast.
With constant movement between the three couples,
is reminiscent of Polish director Krzysztof
, a triptych that intertwined three
families through three films with red, white, and blue motifs and filters.
Relentless in focusing on Vancouver’s monochromatic grey tones and muted
interiors, Weber, who both wrote the screenplay and directed
, has counterpointed visuals with
dialogue plain and blunt enough to feel real.
“You gotta have some faith,” Doug tells Sarah as they wait
before Courtney can be tested for HIV.
“What are you going to do if she’s sick,” Sarah asks as
Courtney listens from a hallway, “Watch her grow up and die before finishing
high school? Doug, I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”
Kudos must go to Haley Adrianna Guiel as Courtney, the tiny
person faced with watching her parents unravel knowing she is the object of
their distress. Staring outdoors to the yard her father demands she avoid,
Courtney’s resignation is matter-of-factly palpable.
Genevieve Buechner is equally impressive as Megan, the girl
verging on womanhood who craves her repressed dad’s compliments and persists in
seeking more even when it comes to comparing herself to his lovers, bought and
“Were they prettier than me?” Megan asks.
“Honey, they were different than you.”
“How were they different than me?! Dad? Dad?”
“Because you’re my daughter,” Steve whispers, after she’s left
Weber has produced a small but brilliant gem with a disquieting resonance that will be sure to provoke discussion after its Whistler film festival viewing. Mount Pleasant screens Friday, Dec. 1, 9 p.m. at Village 8 Cinemas.