November 04, 2005

Desolation Sound

Directed by Scott Weber Starring Hélène Joy and Jennifer Beals

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Remember those ads pitching British Columbia as "The Best Place on Earth"? No? Come on, roughly a million of our tax dollars went into those. Check out the Sunshine Coast-set film Desolation Sound for a reminder. A few establishing shots in this movie are enough to help bring back memories of the campaign that allegedly gave us the bragging rights we get for living in this province, the best place to sea-kayak and watch the orcas!

Desolation Sound goes on to reveal some shady goings-on amidst the quaint picturesque surroundings. Tweenager Margaret (Emily Hirst) walks on the roof in her sleep, yet her parents Laurel (Hélène Joy) and Michael (Ian Tracey) aren't in a hurry to fix the latch on her bedroom window. They also seem unfazed by her klepto tendencies and her playdates with creepy ex-con Benny (Lothaire Bluteau of Black Robe). Apparently dad is often away on wildlife photo shoots and mom is coping with painter's block.

The last thing they need is for evil Vancouverite Elizabeth (Jennifer Beals of Flashdance) to abruptly show up and wreck their home life. She’s a maniac, maniac, who takes her passion and makes it happen by foretelling her own impending death and confessing her tryst with Michael. No thanks to Margaret - who purloins her necklace and then does the rooftop somnambulist routine - Elizabeth and Laurel wind up tussling up there where Elizabeth soon slips and falls to her death. With Benny's help, Laurel buries the body underneath a rose garden and begins channeling her inner Elizabeth. She picks up smoking again, sleeps until 4 p.m., dyes her hair black, smears black paint all over canvases, and bangs Sheriff Doug Shepard (Ed Begley Jr.) when Michael's gone.

Will Laurel get caught? Is she innocent? Is she possessed? Will she spew green vomit and throw Doug out the window? Should we care? Not likely, since she's not a particularly identifiable protagonist. First-time director Scott Weber is so busy planting bread crumbs along the story's trail, he simply forgets about developing characters and brewing suspense. He goes through the motions by cramming as much as he can into 100 minutes, so even the beautiful Sunshine Coast scenery only flashes across the screen for a few seconds at a time. Screenwriter Glynis Davies - who also appears on screen as shopkeeper/Doug's wife/Laurel's yoga partner and hairdresser Kathy - dumps a pile of ill-fitting puzzle pieces onto the plot. Since she doesn't divulge these hints with any subtlety, the film has no surprise to speak of. The amateurish filmmaking explains why Desolation Sound first premiered on American cable television in June. Why it merited a spot at last month's Vancouver International Film Festival and why it's now getting a Canadian theatrical release are the movie's only mysteries.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.