Starring: Dylan Authors, Julia Sarah Stone, Rhys Bevan-John,
Allan Hawco, Francine Deschepper and Molly Parker
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
Written by: Daniel MacIvor
Running time: 84 minutes
Classified: PG (mature theme)
Rating: *** (out of four)
Director Bruce McDonald's previous road trips have taken viewers into the dark soul of the American South, and down a ragged road of punk rock destruction. Reteaming with his Trigger collaborator Daniel MacIvor, he's hit the highway again for a kinder, gentler journey into the hearts of a pair of Nova Scotia teens in the mid-'70s in Weirdos.
Kit (Dylan Authors) and Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) are ostensibly boyfriend and girlfriend, too young to have appreciated the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and a couple of years away from deciding whether they'd be into disco or new wave. The cultural wasteland of 1976 is omnipresent, from Mother, Jugs and Speed on a movie theatre marquee to the flow of CanCon classics by Crowbar, Andy Kim and Patsy Gallant. Kit knows there's a bigger and more invigorating world beyond Antigonish, personified by his "spirit animal" Andy Warhol, represented in print by Interview magazine and onscreen in a wry portrayal by Rhys Bevan-John.
"I want things to change," Kit sighs to his fright-wigged imaginary friend.
"You should want what's possible," he replies, staring into the middle distance. "Things don't change on their own."
So Kit embarks on a quest for change, leaving his self-absorbed father Dave (Allan Hawco) behind in Antigonish to move in with his artist mom Laura (Molly Parker) in Sydney. Alice comes along for the ride, partly for the adventure and the promise of a party on Dominion Beach, but also as a chance to get closer to Kit and find out what makes him tick, or at least find out why he says he loves her but keeps her at arm's length.
Thumbing their way over the Canso Causeway, Kit and Alice don't experience the manic sidebars of McDonald's Roadkill or Highway 61, apart from a brief interlude in the back of a police car stolen by John Dunsworth. Instead, Weirdos pays close attention to its teen characters, believably played by steely staring Authors and moon-faced Stone, who are just starting to learn there's a lot more to life than what they hear on the radio and see on TV.
MacIvor's script doesn't stint on the parents' point of view either. Although Dave seems perpetually stoned, it's more that he's been set adrift and shows genuine concern for both his son and the wife who needed to escape, either to Toronto or an institution. Parker's fragile Julia lends considerable dramatic weight to the film's second half, and her predicament changes Alice's frustration with Kit to sympathy, and an understanding that an enduring friendship is more valuable than the flash fire of teenage passion.
Shot in crisp black and white, with an atmospheric score by Halifax's Asif and Shehab Illyas between the K-Tel tunes soundtrack, Weirdos shows that coming-of-age is a challenge in any era, with or without digital devices and social media. Getting the love you want or deserve is nigh-impossible at the best of times, let alone the worst of times.