Andrew Cividino’s superb first film captures teenage ennui effortlessly.
By Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE PLOT: One sleepy summer in Lake Superior, two teenagers become fast friends: Adam (Jackson Martin) is a quiet, brainy kid slowly coming to terms with his sexuality. Riley (Reece Moffett) has a boisterous personality that hides a soulful nature. Both come from families in turmoil –one at plain sight, the other one, not so much- and look at the future with suspicion.
There is a third boy in the mix, Nate (Nick Serino), slightly younger than the other two and blissfully unruffled by teenage angst. Nate’s camaraderie with cousin Riley begins to falter as he becomes close with Adam. The feeling of being slighted becomes the decisive factor in a chain of events that puts the mental and physical wellbeing of the trio at risk.
CRITIQUE: A considerable achievement for a first time filmmaker, Andrew Cividino captures the joys and woes of adolescence with ease. There is nothing particularly ground-breaking about the plot (all the drama on display is recognizable), yet the protagonists’ process of internalization is so organic, it feels new.
The three newcomers are almost as impressive: Both Adam and Riley’s personalities are in flux, a condition Martin and Moffett make clear without being overt about it. Reece Moffett makes the putative antagonist likeable, in spite of his role as agent of chaos. The adults in Sleeping Giant are flat and hardly a source of relief, forcing the teens to fend the challenges that come with growing up alone.
* Andrew Cividino’s accurate portrait of free range teens is all-encompassing, from timid sexual experimentation to kids’ pushing the limits of their physicality past what’s reasonable.
* The conflicts Adam and Riley face are minor, but amplified by age. It’s the classic recipe for teenage drama that so many movies get wrong.
* The location work in the film is remarkable. Not surprisingly, Cividino knows the Lake Superior area by heart.
* The summer visitors’ half-heartedly attempting to live in community is a nice touch.
* The ending is bound to split audiences. Cividino has stated the film is not open ended and the teens’ journey reaches its natural conclusion. In my opinion, the movie called for further character exploration, a request that goes unanswered.
RATING (CANADIAN CURVE): ****
Sleeping Giant opens this Friday the 8th in Toronto, and on April 15th in Montreal and Vancouver.