· This powerful allegory about child abuse deserves notice.
By Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE PLOT: Jude, a 14 year-old on the cusp of teenagedom finds himself overwhelmed by new feelings he can hardly understand. An essentially good kid, he boy lacks decent role models: His dad, a small town dealer and user, lacks the tools and the will to lead his son through his development.
Unable to deal with the hardships of life in a small town (where he is poorly regarded), Jude finds shelter in fantasy: He believes a troll who lives in the woods is stalking him and getting him in trouble. A shed of light comes in the form of Alfreda, an eccentric old woman –thought by some to be a witch- who may hold information regarding Jude’s mother.
CRITIQUE: Unassuming and minimalistic to a fault, Cast No Shadow is exceptionally effective. Director Christian Sparkes gets superb performances from a mostly unknown cast, including the young protagonist, Percy Hynes-White. His credible, understated work anchors the film and earns the sympathies of the audience, in spite of some questionable behaviour.
Sparkes use of Newfoundland’ scenery serves the story. Instead of abusing of the province’s landscapes, goes for an American Gothic approach: Still beautiful, but unpolished, with a palpable sense of danger in some corners.
The potentially cheesy troll element (see, uh, Troll) is used wisely. Without openly showing it, the movie never closes the door at the possibility that the creature exists. The mystery is solved in a chilling and effective manner and gives the film a new –yet perfectly appropriate- perspective.
· There is a noticeable effort to make the main characters multidimensional. Even the diciest character, Jude’s dad (a toxic presence by all accounts), can elicit a modicum of compassion.
· The relationship between Jude and his would-be girlfriend is problematic, but dexterously handled and informs the protagonist’s mental state faultlessly.
· The conclusion. The subtlety that characterizes most of the film is lost briefly, but at a critical juncture.
· During the denouement, Cast No Shadow gives the sensation the screenwriter painted himself into a corner. His solution -instead of leaving the audience imagining the possibilities- is abrupt and unsatisfactory, particularly after all the audience has been through with the character.
RATING: *** 1/2
RATING (CANADIAN CURVE): ****
Cast No Shadow is now playing in St. John, Toronto and Halifax.