Thursday, 27 February 2014

RABID and the Monstrous-Feminine

Sci-fi Meets Horror as David Cronenberg Takes on the Seedy Streets of Montreal

(Beware of Spoilers)

How do you know the medical institution has failed you?
You wake up with a vicious phallus in your armpit and find you have a unquenchable thirst for blood.

Meet Rose. The medical institution has failed her.

But hey, it grows on her - eventually.

Loaded with vampire and zombie imagery, this 1977 Cronenberg film follows the atrocious and violent transformation of the leading lady, Rose, into a monster/victim hybrid. The incident is the result of a botched skin graph - an experiment undergone by a 'mad-scientist' Frankenstein figure, Dr. Keloid, who sees Rose's arrival into his care as a chance to make a medical breakthrough. Don't worry, he's her first victim. Unfortunately, we don't know anything about who Rose is before her motorcycle accident, but her struggle with turning monstrous suggests she was a pretty nice person before. But it is clear early on that she is utterly powerless against her insatiable desire for blood. To fulfill this new lust, Rose heedlessly takes advantage of her own position as feminine, playing the role of the lonely beauty to draw men in. It's no surprise then that the role was given to Marilyn Chambers - a well known porn actress at the time (star of Behind the Green Door). Worse, after succumbing to Rose's seduction and penetration, should they survive, her victims are infected. They turn into rabid, blood-thirsty, zombie-esque creatures. As you might imagine, it then spreads through the city streets like wildfire in a forest. If that's not an STD, I don't know what is.

Obviously, with the rise of Plastic Surgery in the 70s, the sci-fi elements in the film strongly appeal to the contemporary fears about modern medicine and other technologies. This generates much of the horror as well. Moreover, the horror imagery is graphic at times, making a spectacle out of the destruction of the body, for both Rose and her victims.

So despite her attempts to keep her urges under control, Rose comes to embody the monstrous-feminine. Her bodily transformation surely highlights this, as does her role as a seductress. As Barbara Creed points out in her 1993 essay, "Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection", classical mythology was "populated with gendered monsters, many of which were female". She connects this to the idea that women themselves represent the abject, as defined by Julia Kristeva: That which "does not respect borders, positions, rules" and "disturbs identity, system, order". Clearly this is what horror cinema does, and even what it is. But for Creed, borrowing from a long line of psychoanalysis and Freudian theory, it also represents women's position in a male dominated society. Such theories argue that woman is positioned opposite to man and is therefore Othered. She is to be feared for her difference; she is a threat. In horror cinema, the monstrous-feminine can be understood as making good on such threats by literally becoming violent. Since Creed understands horror spectatorship as signifying both a desire for the perverse and to eject the abject, being able to play out the fantasy of confronting the monstrous-feminine, and possibly even defeating her, would be quite the cathartic experience for the male viewer.

Rose is especially interesting then because what makes her so dangerous is her recognition of her position as desirable. By stalking the late night streets of Montreal, a place known for its seediness to say the least, Rose is able to find and lure in her prey - using her female sexual energy as bait. It's a quick way to get the job done. Just a little something to think about the next time a pretty girl eyes you on a darkened downtown street...

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

HAUNTER (2013) Delivers the Goods!

Think Beetlejuice. Now, Think The Others. Now, Think Darker... But with Abigail Breslin!

Working in the Canadian Film Industry for over two decades, Vincenzo Natali has garnered quite the resume. This includes Ginger Snaps (Storyboard Artist), and Splice (Writer/Director), so it's fair to expect from him a familiar story with a dark side and a sharpened edge. Haunter delivers.

It would be interesting to enter this movie without knowing anything about it, to let it blindside you. It wants to, after all. But if you have read even the smallest, vaguest synopsis, you'll have a pretty good idea about what is going on, as I did. The IMDB plot reads: The ghost of a teenager who died years ago reaches out to the land of the living in order to save someone from suffering her same fate.
So the mysterious atmosphere, and Lisa's (Breslin) insistence that she is reliving the same day, again and again, did not generate much confusion or tension. However, I was very curious to watch this story unravel. This was partly because the Groundhog Day experience paired with what I figured would become a Beetlejuice-like scenario made me assume it was safe to believe the film would be quite fun. What soon became evident was that it was taking shape less like the wittiness of Beetlejuice and more like the sadness of The Others. And then, it got creepier.


The story finally reveals itself to be the kind of horror that is rooted in reality. There is malevolent ghost who has Lisa trapped. He seems to have control over every aspect of her afterlife. Why? Because he is the ghost of a psycho who hunted and kidnapped girls when he was alive, storing them in a furnace, and he has found a way to continue doing it in death. He is pure evil. Worse, he is the kind of evil you hear about on the news.

Canadian film is "well known" (so to speak) for its ambiguous endings. They tend to leave you with a feeling of emptiness and uncertainty. Their lack of closure is then reinforced by a resistance to giving the protagonist a decisively happy ending. Haunter is no different, but I guess since she's already dead - things cannot exactly get worse...

I liked this film. It was more intense than I expected, but was never excessive in regards to on-screen violence of any nature. It showed what it had to show to make its point, and then carried on with the story. As someone who watches A LOT of horror films (from an academic standpoint I'm very interested in their relationship to gender, violence, and the human condition - but I also just find them to be a ton of fun), I can definitely appreciate the break from heavy gore and the sexualization of young girls. It's impressive to me when a horror film can stand on its own two feet, not wholeheartedly relying on conventions and special FX. Instead, Haunter relies on a strong story, and an actress who can deliver it.

For a more cynical opinion, you can check out this review by Simon Abrams on Roger

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

GROWING OP: A New Approach to Coming of Age

Director: Michael Melski
Starring: Steven Yaffee, Rosanna Arquette, and Rachel Blanchard
Release Date: November 2008
Genre: Comedy, Young Adult Drama
Running Time: 100 mins.

There are so many different approaches to the ever popular coming-of-age story, but this one is actually different, I swear. Feeling alienated from his peers, home-schooled eighteen year old Quinn longs to get out into the world. Knowing his parents will never agree, he secretly enrols at the local public school where he hopes to make an impression on the new girl. There's just one problem - he finds it difficult to connect with anyone while hiding the fact that he lives in a grow-op run by free-spirited parents who feel the institutionalization of education is a tool of fascism. Worse, people are starting to get suspicious of his "I've been away with the bird flu" cover story. Obviously, it's only a matter of time before someone digs a little too deep.

Like many coming-of-age stories, there is no clear cut right and wrong here, which means no good guys or bad guys - just people doing what they think is best. But this may be one of the very few films in existence that portray "potheads" as exceptionally intelligent folk. So if you have ever rolled your eyes, bored by another typical "stoner flick" featuring an abundance of "surfer" vernacular and/or ridiculous plans that can only fail, you may want to try something new with Growing Op.

The story itself is original and fun, but I have to admit the ending struck me as odd and I was a little disappointed. In hindsight however, I feel the need to give it some credit. So what if it did not go in the direction I expected? It did provide some closure, a life lesson, and stayed true to its values (which I think have something to do with living free while staying honest...).

It was just the right amount of predictable; I never felt thrown for a complete loop, and I enjoyed my experience with it. I maintain that it is an interesting perspective on growing up, and what that really means.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014



Inspired by true events, Nathan Morlando's 2011 Crime/Drama CITIZEN GANGSTER (set in Toronto) takes a close look at Canada's most notorious bank robber, Edwin Boyd. Initially a lone wolf, after a stint behind bars he became the leader of the Boyd Gang, which boasts several bank heists, multiple prison escapes, and one murdered cop throughout a short three year period, until their final capture in 1952. The joyride came to a startling end, with half the members being hanged, and the other half being slapped with multiple life sentences. The latter includes Boyd himself, portrayed in the film by Scott Speedman as charismatic, and forgivable. After all, he only served ten years.

While many films tend to exaggerate their relationship to true events, Morlando spent notable time getting to know Ed Boyd, as well as his daughter Carolyn Boyd in the time leading up to Ed's death (2002). So it's safe to say, much time was spent understanding and building the story, and putting this film together. Quoted in the Toronto Star, Morlando states: 

It was very easy for him (Boyd) to turn on the charm, point his finger at the camera and say he had no regrets about bank robbing. But when you got him in a quieter moment . . . I could see in his eyes that there was deep regret and loss and his biggest regret and loss is the loss of his family and his children.

After getting to know Carolyn, Morlando admits that her perspective greatly impacted his script. Over the years it became less of an action film and more of a "tragic love story" (The Star). The film was finally released in 2011 with Carolyn's stamp of approval. And I must say, kudos Morlando. This is a great film. It was honoured with a few Genie nominations, but sadly no wins, losing in two categories to Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD.

It masterfully creates the tension in the atmosphere by placing emphasis on newspaper headlines, newsreels in the theatre, and radio announcements. Boyd's own obsession with these is shown in relation to his dreams of being a big screen star, which really gives his character a three-dimensionality. We get to see who he is, who he wants to be, and who he becomes. But perhaps what I most enjoyed about the film is that even when leaning towards being a Folk-Hero Tale, it never glamourizes Boyd's crimes. That being said, it also does not make him out to be a monster. Mostly, it presents his story, the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, as the Boyd gang howls drunkenly, Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition, because the ride is a bumpy one - but you won't regret it.

Top Billed Cast:
Scott Speedman
Kelly Reilly
Kevin Durand
Brendan Fletcher
and Joseph Cross (YES! The kid from Jack Frost!)

Thursday, 13 February 2014



In the spirit of Valentine's Day I thought it might be nice to point out some Great Canadian Rom-Coms. And then I realized, those may not exist. The trouble I have had putting together a proper rom-com list is evocative of Katherine Monk's 2001 book entitled Weird Sex & Snowshoes: and Other Canadian Film Phenomenon. Here, Monk suggests that the strangeness of Canadian film extends to the concept of genre itself. Ultimately, she sees our industry as disconnected from genre filmmaking and instead laden with, well, weird sex and snowshoes.

So I got creative, and created 3 separate lists to represent the many different ways Canadian film tends to portray romance.

Top 5 'Twisted Love' Tales:
These erotic-thriller types feature danger, suspense, and sexuality. However questionable, if you see them the right way... they are kid of romantic. I can appreciate that.

5. CHLOE (Atom Egoyan 2009)

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore.

Shot/Set: Toronto, ON

Plot: This erotic thriller pits everyone against each other when a wife suspects her husband of cheating, and hires an escort to seduce him. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that, like all Egoyan films, nothing is as it seems and danger is lurking around every corner.

Note: This is a remake of a 2003 French Film NATHALIE

Quote: "I think my husband would like you. What's your name?"

4. DAYDREAM NATION (Michael Goldbach 2010)

Starring: Kat Dennings, Andie MacDowell, Reese Thompson

Shot/Set: Fort Langley, BC

Plot: Upon moving to a small town, Caroline Wexler decides to make a few changes to make her new high school experience a little more exciting than the last. But her new persona quickly takes her over, and she finds herself in a dangerous love affair with an older man. Should she keep up the charade? Is there even a way out?

Note: Dennings also starred in Canada's DEFENDOR in 2010

Quote: "I don't know why the idea came to me when it did, but I instantly knew it would make life more interesting"

3. CRASH (David Cronenberg 1996)

Starring: James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas

Shot/Set: Toronto, ON

Plot: After a serious car accident, a man discovers an underground sex-culture that finds its thrills in the culmination of danger and arousal. Could this be exactly what he and his wife need to rediscover each other? Or perhaps the better question is how far is too far?

Note: Available in full on YouTube

Quote: "They have no idea who we really are"

2. SPLICE (Vincenzo Natalie 2009)

Starring: Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody, Delphine Chaneac

Shot/Set: ON

Plot: This horror/sci-fi delves into the complex world of DNA splicing. When a young ambitious couple push the limits of not only science, but morality, it is too soon before they find themselves losing a firm grasp of right and wrong. And even sooner do they find themselves entangled in a challenging relationship with their creation. What are its rights? What are its desires? And what are their own?

Note: This movie is quite dark, but is not the straightforward horror flick that the trailers promised

Quote: "Human cloning is illegal. This won't be human, not enirely"

1. KISSED (Lynne Stopkewich 1996)

Starring: Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge, Jay Brazeau

Shot/Set: Vancouver, BC

Plot: Some children fear death, others, like Sandra here, romanticize it. Before long, this romanticizing leads to sexualizing, and Sandra takes refuge in working at a funeral home, where all of her needs can be "attended to". Enter Matt. Will his surprising interest in Sandra be strong enough to to take her away from her own passions?

Note: Available in full on YouTube

Quote: "When a thing turns into its opposite, when love becomes hate, there are always sparks. But when life turns into death, it's explosive"

Top 5 'Almost Love' Comedies:
More like (but not) traditional sex-comedies, these films discuss, challenge, and explore romance in all its confusing capacities.

5. JUNO (Jason Reitman 2007)

Starring: Ellen page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman

Shot/Set: Burnaby, BC

Plot: Teen pregnancy is no joke, and although this film is light-hearted in nature, it is perfectly aware of that. When Juno decides she cannot go through with an abortion, she makes an incredibly mature decision to give the child up for adoption. But she does not forsee how complicated and messy such situations can get. As she navigates the adoption process she learns a lot about family, herself, and love.

Note: This film did quite well at the 2008 Oscars, but Reitman was discouraged by what he deemed as lack of recognition in Canada

Quote: "I was out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level"

4. PORKY'S (Bob Clark 1982)

Starring: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight

Shot/Set: Florida 

Plot: The story takes place in a 1950s High School setting. Like all 1980s sex-comedies, the goal of the teen protagonists is to lose their virginity. Complete with bullies and misunderstandings, escapades and misogyny ensue.

Note: This film was made at the end of Canada's tax-shelter era, when films were rapidly produced to take advantage of the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) introduced in 1974. As a result, many of these films were solely commercial projects. The stories were generic and often masked any Canadian locale/content. 

Quote: "Why do they call you Meat? Because you're so big?"

3. THE TROTSKY (Jacob Tierney 2009)

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Colm Feore

Shot/Set: Montreal, QC

Plot: A politically inclined teen, Leon Bronstein, decides it's time for the students to fight for their rights. In an attempt to develop a union for the students, Leon and his followers take over the school. Oh, also, he believes himself to be the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky, so... yeah. He demands a revolution, and recognition. And to marry Alexandra, a much older Graduate student whom Leon believes to be the perfect match for Trotsky. His wife was named Alexandra, after all.

Note: Baruchel and Hampshire portray love interests again the following year in GOOD NEIGHBOURS

Quote: "You and I are going to get married"

2. YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING (Martin Gero 2007)

Starring: Aaron Abrams, Carly Pope, Kristin Booth

Shot/Set: Toronto, ON

Plot: This film features a number of vignettes in which, on one Tuesday night, 5 different couples with 5 very different histories... connect. Funny and refreshing, this film has something for everyone.

Note: This film caused major political uproar in 2006, with the Conservative government enacting bill C-10, which states that tax credits may be retroactively stripped if the film is deemed "offensive". Still, reception was quite positive and it was described as a "social reality check" by Liberal Heritage critic Denis Coderre.

Quote: "You want passion and instigation? Well I am going for it!"


Starring: Dominique Michel, Dorothee Berryman, Louise Portal

Shot/Set: Montreal, QC

Plot: A group of academics spend a secluded couples-weekend away, but not before intimately discussing their own perceptions of romance, relationships, and sex. Mostly, sex. The discussions vary in topic from politics, to the academic system, but they always come back to personal connection.

Note: This is a Quebecois film and was dubbed into english. Needless to say, it sounds a little strange.

Quote: "Lying is the basis of every love affair, and of all social life"

Top 5 'Tragic Love' Dramadies:
These are the most difficult to define, but for me, they maintain a dark sense of humour based on a recognition that there is something inherently ironic about giving yourself to another.

5. TAKE THIS WALTZ (Sarah Polley 2011)

Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman

Shot/Set: Toronto, ON

Plot: Margot is restless. After meeting an intriguing man while away for work, she is devastated to find he lives across the street from the home she and her husband share. From that moment, she begins to question everything about her life and her desires. While resisting an affair, she can't help but fall under this man's spell, awakened by his ability to find a  hidden sexual being in her.

Note: This is Polley's third crack at directing a feature film. It's beautiful.

Quote: "I feel like being out in the world with you"

4. ADORATION (Atom Egoyan 2008)

Starring: Devon Bostick, Rachel Blanchard, Scott Speedman

Shot/Set: Toronto, ON

Plot: An orphaned teen boy, Simon, takes his high school assignment too far when he weaves his life story into a news story, figuring his father as a terrorist. While the story spins out of control, becoming an internet sensation and widespread debate, Simon tries to use it as an opportunity to discover the truth about his parents relationship and the events that led to their deaths.

Note: To ensure realism, Egoyan had teenagers consider stories of terrorism in a Toronto High School, recording their reactions to recreate for his film.

Quote: "The thing you have to remember about my mother, is that she was extremely trusting"

3. FETCHING CODY (David Ray 2005)

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Sarah Lind, Jim Byrnes

Shot/Set: Vancouver, BC

Plot: When the love of his life Cody falls into a heroine-induced coma, Art will stop at nothing to fix things. Good thing he has a time-travelling chair!

Note: I have reviewed this film in an earlier blog post :)

Quote: "Some people say they don't believe in love at first sight, but I know it's true"

2. DOUBLE HAPPINESS (Mina Shum 1994)

Starring: Sandra Oh, Stephen Chang, Callum Keith Rennie

Shot/Set: Vancouver, BC

Plot: Multiculturalism is tricky, and no one knows this better than Jade. A young woman with big dreams of making it big on stage, she is torn between knowing what she wants, and knowing how to explain it to her traditional Chinese parents. Her desire to grow up and move out pulls her in one direction (one which includes lying and one-night stands), and her sense of responsibility to family keeps her standing still. She is full of passion, but when it comes to romance, Jade is forced to make real decisions, real fast.

Note: This was Oh's first feature film role.

Quote: "You feeling guilty?"

1. MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (Isabel Coixet 2003)

Starring: Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Mark Ruffalo

Shot/Set: New Westminster, BC

Plot: When twenty-three year old, wife and mother of two, Ann is diagnosed with terminal cancer she decides to live out her days, living. Without telling a soul, Ann sets out on a few missions. Her list includes making birthday tapes for each year of her daughters' lives she will miss, finding her husband a new wife, and sleeping with another man - just to know what it's like. But when Lee finds himself falling for this mysterious and married woman, things get complicated.

Note: This film won Polley a "Best Actress" award at the Genies

Quote: "I guess it's time to start making some plans"


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Before there was Kick-Ass, There Was Defendor

"Ordinary People, They Do Extraordinary Things All The Time" 

... Even in Canada

If you happen to be a huge Marvel fan like myself, then I would like to warn you that you will have to to adjust your expectations to enjoy this Superhero flick. But trust me, it's worth it.

Arthur Poppington (wonderfully portrayed by Woody Harrelson) enjoys a relatively familiar Superhero backstory. Living in a crime-ridden city and orphaned at a young age, he has decided that enough is enough. A passionate vigilante with a thirst for vengeance and a desire to protect the innocent, Defendor fights to clean up his town. But not everyone understands his mission. Some wonder if he really is a Hero, or just another Menace. But without any actual superpowers, he's just a guy, trying to do what's right (much like in the Hollywood film Kick-Ass which was released the following year).

But the story is not so black and white. In fact, the grey area of this picture is quite muddy. This is made perfectly clear by the film's opening scene. A close-up of Arthur reveals him to be in an orange jumpsuit, frustrated, as he is being interrogated. He lacks cooperation, it seems. But soon it becomes clear what the trouble is - Arthur has difficulty processing the situation. He attempts to explain himself, at which point flashbacks take precedence over his voice. This will continue throughout the film as his psychological evaluation remains the backdrop. His Superhero guise, as it turns out, is a coping mechanism - he is frustrated, sad, lonely. He wants to be better than himself. When he dresses up, he confesses, he's not so stupid, Defendor is a million times better than Arthur. The guise is a coping mechanism for a mental disorder. Many actually.

The film is heartfelt, due in large part to Harrelson's performance.The story begins when Defendor comes across a young girl being handled violently by a corrupt cop exchanging drugs for sexual acts. After attacking the officer, he takes Katerina (Kat Dennings) home with him and an unlikely friendship develops. Although she uses Arthur's delusions to her own advantage, the two do work together to try to take down a local prostitution ring.

Defendor is a coproduction between Canada, the US, and the UK, but it is shot and SET in Ontario. This is great because it allows for a way to explore the crime problems within Canada. With the stereotype of being "nice" attached to us, these issues are easily ignored. Throughout the film, a radio host speaks openly about local issues of drug abuse, prostitution, sex-slavery, and juvenile delinquency. He argues that Canada needs to open its eyes to these issues, that ignoring them will not make them go away.

I really enjoyed this film, and I would like to close by noting that it had a stellar cast including:

Woody Harrelson
Kat Dennings
Sandra Oh
and Lisa Ray

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Sam and Me (1991): Exposing the Silenced Issues of Multiculturalism

In 1988 Canada solidified Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s vision of harmonious ethnic diversity with The Canadian Multiculturalism Act, making combatting racism a national law. It’s purpose was to foster freedom and understanding among all Canadian people and to “increase all Canadians’ sense of belonging” (Moss and Sugars, 544). Although well intentioned, attempting to move Canada away from its colonial roots, it is often criticized for being idealistic and superficial (Moss and Sugars, 544). In a recent anthology of Canadian literature, editors Laura Moss and Carol Sugars argue that “forces of globalization, diasporic migration, and technological development” have all weeded out the concept of a singular Canadian identity, prompting an appreciation of heterogeneity (517), however many contemporary Canadian texts (and American ones) seem to question if this multiculturalism and heterogeneity actually works. The realities of racism are surfacing left and right in books, films, even the news; increasingly so since the “war on terror” began. The fact that these stories are so prominent, within the western world in particular, proves that people are taking an interest in these issues. 

When a Toronto-set film such as Sam and Me (directed by Deepa Mehta, and starring Ranjit Chowdhry) is released just a few years after the Multiculturalism Act is passed, it is impossible not to read it as a response and even as a criticism. Despite being a beautiful story about unlikely connections, it simultaneously refuses to idealize interracial interactions within multicultural societies. It unflinchingly exposes the shortcomings of multiculturalism by emphasizing the significance of the immigrant’s return and by forcing characters into inhabitable non-places, creating tense and unpleasant contact zones for characters of different races and cultures. As a film about migration and immigration, Sam and Me is, at the heart, a diasporic critique. According to Jigna Desai, author of Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film, this type of text has a responsibility to “dismantle nationalist constructions of belonging that link racialized and gendered bodies and space in seamless tales of bloodlines and family to the land” (18). The film is thus immediately inclined to analyze what the term “belonging” actually means for these migrant characters. Sam is an interesting character in this sense because while he feels he does not belong in Canada, exclaiming he wants to die at home (In Israel) he also does not have anything that belongs to him. His son makes this perfectly clear when he states “You don’t own a damn thing. Not here, not in Israel”. This overwhelming sense of lack makes it easy to sympathize with the old man. His only desire is to return. Though an immigrant, having lived in Canada for many years, he views himself still as a migrant refusing to settle in and create a new sense of home. Canada can never replace Sam’s homeland. This refusal to integrate, and even to fully relocate, is highlighted when Sam takes off all of his clothes and stands naked in the rain singing in Hebrew. Here, not only is Sam intentionally breaking the social code and law in Canada which insists that we wear clothes while in public, he is also refusing the official languages.

Canada’s multiculturalism policy may preach tolerance of other races, religions and customs however when it comes to the issue of language, the policy is quite demanding. It states that the government shall “preserve and enhance the use of languages other than English and French, while strengthening the status and use of the official languages of Canada; and... advance multiculturalism throughout Canada in harmony with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada” (Moss and Sugars, 545). The phrasing of this section of the policy is problematic and confusing - it seems rather difficult to “enhance” the use of other languages while “strengthening the status” of English and French. The point to made here however is that immigrants are still expected to participate wholly in English and French. When Sam sings and speaks in Hebrew he is essentially identifying as not-Canadian. He is only Jewish. His intentions are never hidden, he wants to return to Israel. Unfortunately, this is an impossibility. He has run out of money even though he was once successful in Canada, and he is granted limited mobility by his son who has no desire to even entertain the idea of sending him home.

As is the mobility of many migrants and illegal immigrants, Sam’s movement is usually frantic, hurried and secretive. He is constantly surveilled and given strict limitations but, desperate for freedom, he always finds a way out. This recalls Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of second-world mobilities which are said to live in space rather than time because movement is controlled and dangerous (88); there is never any time to spare. This is definitely the feeling evoked by Sam’s urgent escapes. Although he is legal and in no real danger forcing him to move, the fact that, as an Other (and this is further complicated by his old age as well) who is controlled and watched, he is unable to move freely thus validating this vagabond-like characteristic. He is unhappy and un-free in his place of residence. It is obvious throughout the film that he will never be able to walk on “the promised land” again, but to make this explicit Sam is killed by a car in an attempt to find his friend and caretaker, Nik. Significantly, it is the first time Sam is mobile on his own for an extended period of time.

For Sam, Canada is a land of hope - until it becomes a prison. When asked why he ever came in the first place he responds by citing the immigrant’s typical ‘American dream’; peace, freedom, money. Having found that he can not obtain any of this, he is ready to go home. For Nik, Canada is a “reform school” (Nik) rather than a home. His less than perfect behavior has had him basically exiled from his home in India. Even so, he does have plans to bring his mother over suggesting that he intends to move away from the migrant role and become a permanent immigrant, against his uncle’s advice. In the opening of the film, we are introduced to Nik’s uncle, Chetan, having sex in his office. From the outset, he appears to be a successful doctor who has become quite accustomed to Canadian life. When he picks up Nik he gives the impression of a proud tourist guide excited to gloat about his host country but this notion of Canadian pride is abruptly dismissed when we learn of his five year plan to return to India. When he learns that Nik would like to move his mother to Canada he spits back: “For what? To clean toilets?...Don’t be like these fools who think they can come here and make it”. The film uses both Sam and Chetan to dispute the idea that immigrants are guaranteed a better life in Canada. Without reason to stay then, or even come in the first place, there is an underlying suggestion within the film that there no reason for a policy on multiculturalism at all. 

The importance of the return for Chetan is nostalgic at best considering he has likely been in Canada longer than his five year plan. Moreover, he has it pretty good. His excitement in welcoming Nik raises the question of whether there is a ‘point of no return’ that an integrating immigrant reaches. However, the film does show ways for immigrants to integrate without losing themselves completely to a whole new culture. The house Nik is placed in can be seen as a community within a community, a place where Nik can actually belong. It is a multi-racial space but more importantly it is a non-white space (as is the entire film). In this way, the film explores what Desai refers to as the “shadow of the color line” (72). This color line which refers to the many Other races within an otherwise white space allows for “near white model minorities” (Desai, 72) to exist and for hierarchies to arise within interracial contact zones. If all mention of judaism was to be eliminated from Sam and Me what would be left is what Kass Banning deems the “driving miss daisy” story. Sam’s light complexion allows for him to be a rather invisible minority. When thought of in line with colonial hierarchies which placed white people far above all darker people (black Africans falling lowest on the chain by this logic) then it becomes obvious that Sam and his family’s power over Nik’s is no coincidence. Both Nik and his uncle work for Sam’s son, a near-white rich man who craves and thrives off of his power over others. Without even being white he becomes the epitome of ‘whiteness’, that is, colonial power. Nik is hired by this colonial-like power and forced to be a care-taker for this old near-white man. He is forced into the role of a migrant worker (unskilled and even degrading work that does not abide by pay equity laws). This is furthered by Nik’s difficulty getting his earned money by the end. Much like a migrant worker, the money is intended to be used to reunite him with family (his mother in this case). 

Although Nik plans on staying in Canada, the final shot of him gazing out of the window completely hopeless, having been kicked out of India and disowned by his uncle, suggests Nik actually has nowhere to go. Sam is dead and Nik is lost. While the return may be a significant theme within the film, it is never realized, but it’s presence as a theme does help to construct Canada as a non-place which furthers the idea that multiculturalism has failed. Non-place is described by Marc Auge as a space that is not relational, not historical and not concerned with identity (77). This film is full of moments that visualize lack of home and/or place by this definition, but the most outstanding scene of this kind is when Sam and Nik sit on a couch on the side of the road. Couches are expected to be inside of homes but seeing as how there are no homes for these characters, they have to make themselves comfortable in the middle of nowhere and are in fact able to, suggesting this is a common theme in their lives. But much like the settlement of migrants and vagabonds, this can only be temporary and even becomes a place of transience when it is picked up by strangers and Sam and Nik continue to sit on it while riding in the back of the strangers’ truck. Even ‘hitching’ a ride is to be expected in a film about migrants. This couch scene illuminates the concept that these characters will never find stability so far away from home and that if home is somewhere else, then here can only be non-home. The present state of the existing Multiculturalism policies simply cannot fix this, especially when their main concern is integration as proven by Canada’s desire to stay committed to the official languages.

In refusing to allow these migrant characters any purely pleasant interracial experiences, Sam and Me argues that simply accepting or even condoning multiculturalism on paper does not have any true effect on the lived experience of multiculturalism. In its intentions of creating happier and healthier contact zones between races (and even religions) the policy is criticized heavily in these films for doing just the opposite. No one seems all that happy to be living in a multicultural society, which may very well only create more hierarchies. The lighter-skinned characters are generally shown as expecting more privilege, and racism is an ever present issue within and between communities (or rather ‘ghettos’). Conflicts within the films arise almost completely out of interracial encounters. These stories deny migrants a sense of home and their desire to return suggests a desire among all people to be only with others like them. Mehta thus seems to be saying that the failures of the multicultural nation is inevitable and that what needs to be addressed is not the mere acknowledgement of other cultures but the issues between them all as the world enters a new chapter of post-colonialism - globalization. Ultimately, this film portrays a very bleak reality about multiculturalism and the problems that can, and do, arise within it.