Director: Gia Milani Writer: Gia Milani Actors: Cory Monteith, Kevin Zegers, Karine Vanasse, Emily Hampshire Runtime: 118 min Rating: 14A
The only thing that I love more than a great film by a first-time feature-filmmaker is when said individual also happens to be Canadian. Not only does the new movie All the Wrong Reasons fulfill all of these requirements, but it also offers an illuminating look at the ways in which ordinary people deal with trauma. Moments of humour and sweetness intermix with dark thematic material, resulting in an arresting film that has a lot to say about the power and potential of human connection.
All the Wrong Reasons is an ensemble piece focusing on four big-box department store employees. James (Cory Monteith) is the ambitious and hard-working store manager who aspires to rise to the level of regional manager and move to Toronto. His wife Kate (Karine Vanasse) spends each day watching the store’s security cameras, a job that allows her to function despite her extreme fear of human contact; as the film progresses, the tragic reasons behind Kate’s phobia are slowly revealed. Nicole (Emily Hampshire) is a struggling single mother who works as a clerk and shows interest in her boss James, who has become understandably sexually frustrated due to his wife’s inability to sustain human contact. Finally, Simon (Kevin Zegers) is a firefighter desperate to regain his job after losing his arm in an accident, and works as a store detective while waiting for reassessment. Due to his gruelling line of work, Simon is able to empathize with Kate in a way that her husband is not, and begins to help her down her slow and painful road to emotional healing while he struggles with physical and mental recovery of his own.
All the Wrong Reasons is a highly relatable film, and it is the realism of this piece that fascinates; we could easily be these people, leading these lives. The actors all perform their parts well, some eliciting sympathy and disgust by turns, which is a very difficult feat to accomplish. It is a challenge for an audience to condemn any character; even as they perform unsavoury actions, we understand their lives and motivations as we see ourselves in them. It is easy to recognize the generic department store in which these individuals work, and many elements of their lives also ring true. Each individual is dysfunctional in his or her own way, but this film depicts every person and every problem openly and equally, without judgement of any kind. Simply watching ordinary people struggling with extraordinary difficulties, making mistakes and attempting to help each other along the way, offers a kind of uplifting experience. Watching a talented Canadian ensemble cast perform at this level is always a treat, as well.
This movie marks the feature-film debut of Canadian Gia Milani, who wrote as well as directed this piece. The low-budget film is shot simply and entirely on location on the Canadian east coast, giving it a home grown feel, a wide appeal, and easy relatability. Funky music and moments of realistic, honestly humourous dialogue lighten the mood of this film addressing dark themes, allowing it to remain highly watchable and enjoyable despite the tragedy that it addresses.
While watching All the Wrong Reasons, it is easy for a spectator to see why it won Milani the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, which honours an emerging filmmaker. The movie has heart, aiming to tell an important story that will impact a wide range of individuals. The Grolsch Award is especially exciting because the winner receives a cash prize to be put toward their next film, as well as marketing opportunities for the winning piece. This film deserves any spotlight shone on it, and here at The Arts Scene, we are only too happy to add one more.