Dir. Andrew Cividino
Starring: Jackson Martin, Nick Serino, Reece Moffett,
Katelyn McKerracher, David Disher, Erika Brodzky, Rita Serino
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Most teenage boys have experienced dull days in cottage country. Sleeping Giant is a skilfully directed and nicely observed slice of life that most of us from the male persuasion - young, old and those who never quite grew up - will be deeply affected by. It also has a terrifically unique Canadian flavour in that it eschews the usual sentimental sweetness of most coming of age films like the sickening tweeness of The Kings of Summer and the nostalgic goo of Stand By Me. There's plenty of tough North Western Ontario hoser-speak and the kind of swagger that can, more often than not, lead to danger. (My own Canuck adolescence was so pathetic, we'd think nothing of driving eight hours from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, where Sleeping Giant was shot, to hang in the heavy metal watering hole The Inn-Towner to simply ogle all the amply-bottomed-and-bosomed hoser chicks with big hair that seemed to glow like radiation in the fluorescence of this dank monument to Canuckian redneck-ism.)
The three young lads at the centre of the film don't even get to hang at the Inn-Towner. They're stuck in a cottage community overlooking Lake Superior where the massive Sleeping Giant (so named by the area's indigenous peoples because the humungous outcropping of turf in the lake looks just like some Brobdingnagian creature keeled over on its back) consumes all views upon the water. The Sleeping Giant is also the name of an insanely dangerous hunk of rock exploding upwards as a beacon for all strapping young men to idiotically dive from the top of it.
Director Cividino has a great feel for the lives of these young men: their wrasslin' bouts, hanging around, stealing beer from the local vendor, zipping around in a golf cart, tear-assing along the rural asphalt on skateboards, watching pathetic fireworks and hitting the noisy arcade. The central figure of the trio is a bit of a dull, pampered rich boy from the city with a Dad so liberal he preaches the healthy sowing of wild oats (while secretly boffing the babe-o-licious hoser chick checkout girl behind his wife's back).
The other two boys are your garden variety country cousin trailer park dwellers living with their raspy-voiced, plain-spoken, chain-smoking Grannie. One of the two white trash laddies is a handsome, young rake who looks to the rich boy's Daddy with a mixture of envy and yearning for a father figure in his life, whilst the other is a deliriously foul-mouthed, mean-spirited misogynist full of bilious utterances about sex.
Most interesting of all is the fact that our rich boy hero takes on so many of the properties one can ascribe to an almost historical stylistic trademark in Canadian cinema. He's the semi-mute observer. He takes it all in passively and the notion of overt action is a rare thing for him to choose. Pretty much every film from the late 80s to mid-90s Golden Age of English-Canadian film, most notably in work by Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin and John Paizs, is happily populated with leading men of this variety. The difference here though, is that Cividino's style, unlike the near-expressionist qualities of the aforementioned, is rooted in the kind of neo-realist perspective one would more often experience in early Donald Shebib works.
There's also a point when some of us might be thinking, "Hey, as great as this is, are we really going to be staring at nothing but guys? Hell, they're all nice looking young bucks with distinctive qualities, but where, oh where, are the babes?"
Well, Cividino does not disappoint. When a hot young teenage babe enters the picture, loyalties become strained, if not divided.
And, getting back to one of my favourite topics, our burgeoning young fellas experience even more division and tantalizing temptation when the film's smouldering homoerotic qualities wend in and out through the picture. Sadly, said homoeroticism is never requited to the degree one of the characters (and some audience members, including moi) would have hoped for, but there's plenty of smouldering in the movie to keep our eyes glued to the screen.
There is, you see, that dangerous sleeping giant cliff. It's a rite of passage that's claimed more than a few lives over the years and the film is charged with a slowly mounting and creepy sense of malevolence tied both to the land and the burgeoning machismo of our three young heroes.
Something bad is going to happen. You can't help but feel it and it's the very thing which adds to the ample qualities of the picture's compulsive form and spirit.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4 Stars
Sleeping Giant receives its North American Premiere in the TIFF Discovery series during TIFF 2015. For dates, times and tix, visit the TIFF website HERE.