Director & Writer: Kate Miles Melville
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Steven McCarthy, Spencer Van Wyck
Runtime: 93 minutes
TIFF 2012 Programme: Discovery
Kate Melville brings to the festival her directorial debut: Picture Day. Doing triple duty as writer, director and producer, Melville has put together a talented Canadian cast – including TIFF 2012’s Rising Star Tatiana Maslany – in what is quite a remarkable production.
The story revolves around 18-year-old Claire (Tatiana Maslany) who is forced to take Grade 13 after failing a few courses the year prior, including math and physical education. Even with her high school diploma up in the air, Claire seems to careless about her education, spending most of her time with Jim (Steven McCarthy), the lead singer of a band called The Elastocitizens (a real Toronto band). While she continues to her love affair with Jim, on the sidelines another boy by the name of Henry (Spencer Van Wyck) – someone she use to babysit a long time ago – hides his attraction to her. What unravels is a journey of identify, a clash between adolescence and adulthood and the revelation of ones purpose in life.
What Melville has created here is a story that we can all relate to. Set in a tense high school atmosphere, what we see is the journey of average individuals who are caught up in the struggles of love and competition and consumed by arrogance and pride. From the start of the film to the very end, the tone is maintained and so is the intensity of the story. At times you feel a moment is dull but then realize, thats the point. Its because its a dull moment. Melville has captured a sense of reality in her film style. Its like seeing a real life moment, just on screen.
This production is a basket of beautiful performances. Steven McCarthy once again demonstrates his versatile acting talent. He balances between emotions very well, capturing both his characters rockstar image as well as his more timid, caring side. His chemistry is very strong not just with Maslany’s Claire but with all the other characters that interact throughout the film. Then of course there is Van Wyck’s Henry which is quite a fascinating character. Quiet, curious, always looking for the most appropriate means of expressing himself. Van Wyck does a splendid job in keeping his character’s traits consistent throughout the production, having moments of revelation that sync with the progression of the story. His performance is a treat to watch and adds humour to the overall production.
However, one person simply steals the show. Tatiana Maslany gives a performance that exceeds her reputation as a multiple-award winning actress. Maslany has a gift of truly enhancing the emotions her various characters have. Here she steps into the shoes of a rather confused 18-year-old, who is stuck in her own world; an adult only by her age. For an actress much older than her character, she plays the role of Claire very convincingly, highlighting her various traits, moods and flaws. You are really taken in by her character that seems to keep your attention everytime she is on screen. The confidence she shows in her performance is quite surreal.
Melville has done everything right from start to finish. She has developed a story that resonates with her audiences, kept the cinematography simple and chosen the right cast to portray each of her characters. The film does have its flaws but they are almost irrelevant when you compare them to the brilliant experience you get watching this film on screen. TIFF programmers have an eye for film and this selection does show that. For a directorial debut, hats off to Melville and the crew. This is a brilliant, simple and rewarding film that will leave you walking out with a smile on your face.
Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival