Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: One Week

The synopsis for the recently released feature film "One Week" doesn't exactly sound like fun: it's about a guy in his mid-20s who finds out he has cancer and decides, on a whim, to take a week-long road trip across Canada on a motorcycle.

You'd be forgiven for assuming this was a recipe for filmic doom and gloom. But it isn't. This movie is insightful, funny, touching, challenging, lyrical and subtly beautiful. And it's the best I've seen so far in 2009.

Joshua Jackson is Ben Tyler, a recently engaged, private school teacher with a fine family who - if you were to add up the good parts of his life - should be a very happy young man. When he is forced to face his own mortality, he starts to closely analyze each of these parts, and they don't always stand up well to the increased scrutiny.

The problem with any movie dominated by a long road trip is the gaps. The gaps in conversation, the lack of interaction, the times when, just as the film's characters are, you're forced to just stare out at the countryside and think about stuff. With a single main character, you'd expect to experience many more of these problematic gaps. 

But there are very few. Director and writer Michael McGowan (who also directed 2004's "Saint Ralph") fills up the journey with a number of things to chew on: the gorgeous cinematography, the interesting (not uniformly quirky - don't worry indie-haters) people Ben meets, his emotional stumbling blocks, his physical travel challenges and a phenomenal soundtrack.

The movie's Canadian. I didn't have to mention that because it makes no difference, but when you note the quality of this production it's worth pointing out that it was shot on a budget of only $1.9 million. Also, McGowan clearly benefits from his special understanding of Canadians; he knows what makes us tick. Plus, he knows that we love our country - even if we aren't the kind of nation that shouts it out to the rest of the world.

Jackson is perfect as the movie's hero. His character is not an angel and he's not a bad man, but he is going through something profound, and Jackson's measured performance shows a maturity he hasn't demonstrated in his acting until now. Liane Balaban is moving in the complex role of Ben's fiance.

"One Week" is not a tearjerker. It's not a cancer movie. It's a satisfying and fulfilling ride, containing a number of juicy surprises, along with fresh insight into the human condition. Word of mouth is the only way this one will be widely seen. Make sure you don't miss it.

****1/2 (out of five)

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Blogger geekmonkmom said...

Were it not for your review I would have indeed stuck with my initial reaction to the commercial - that it was another "I'm dying, doom and gloom" movie. But, sounds like a gem.

April 13, 2009 at 3:52 PM  

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