I take comfort in being Canadian, not because we don’t have a dark past, not because we don’t often get lost in our effort to do the right thing, but because of our collective trying to do better, to get it right. And what I really cling to in days of struggle is our willingness to laugh at ourselves, with great hearty guffaws. Evidence of such humour is displayed with great aplomb in a film released in 2014 and recently added to Netflix. I give you – The Grand Seduction. I watch this film and I watch it again and again, and every single time I watch, I laugh. I laugh at being witness to delicious joy, to innocence, to simplicity, and to that wonderful sense of community. When I am done watching, I sigh and feel warm inside as though I’ve traveled a long distance and found my way home.
The film is set in Newfoundland and scenes were shot at Red Cliffe and Bonavista Bay and Trinity Bay. It’s fun to search the images of those communities and recognize the sights in the film. Of course, I did not grow up in the Maritimes, but I think many of us make claim to the generosity and kindness of Atlantic Canadians. We know how they stepped up when travellers needed safe refuge from 911. That is very much an ordinary day for Maritimers, to open their door and say, “Come on in. How can I help?”
A Canadian film is truly Canadian when Gordon Pinsent is part of the cast, and he is deliciously Gordon in this story. He is joined by Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones and Mark Critch, most of the cast of This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes, and with these folks on the screen it feels as though I am watching a family video and am so happy to see “old friends” again. Taylor Kitsch is the good doctor in this almost all-Canadian cast from writers through director, producer, and distribution, with the exception of Brendan Gleeson, the Irish import who does an admirable job of portraying a Canadian. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 59% based on 69 reviews, and I could care less what the critics think because of my if I likes it, I likes it approach that never lets me down. That rating system is an American based company and is greatly influenced by the power of La La Land, as we all know.
The thing about this film that strikes me so deeply is how the characters don’t appear to be acting. It feels like a true glimpse into their lives, capturing the difficulties of their economic situation and their hopeful efforts to create change. We’ve all been witness to serious acting accomplishments, but for some reason this feels as though it is at a level all its own. I can’t tell you why, I can’t explain my assessment, other than its real sense of authenticity.
I remember watching Rob Lowe on Jimmy Kimmel, speaking about Canada and our stories. This was a few years ago when a film was being made about the Halifax Explosion of 1917, a disaster that saw 2000 lives end, 9000 wounded, and 25000 left homeless. Lowe and Kimmel were able to find some humour in that story, as though disasters of that magnitude are funny and forgettable when they happen to someone else, to Canadians, neighbours they have never taken the time to get to know. Whatever respect I had for those two, by-products of Hollywood, quickly evaporated.
I won’t give away the story in case you haven’t seen the film and if you haven’t, I recommend you tune in immediately. Leave your meal uneaten, your floors unswept, your grass uncut, your bed unmade, and get yourself to Tickle Head Newfoundland and be ready to laugh and to feel warm and to restore your faith in the simple life and the power of the giggle.