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"