By John Corrado
★★★½ (out of 4)
The latest from veteran Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald, Weirdos is an endlessly charming and surprisingly touching coming of age story, that finds the director in top form delivering one of his best and most heartfelt films.
The year is 1976, and Kit (Dylan Authors) and his best friend Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) are a pair of outsider teens craving a change from their small Nova Scotia town. Kit is obsessed with Andy Warhol and dreams of one day moving to New York, and Alice has dreams of maybe becoming a photographer.
So they decide to escape and hitchhike to the town of Sydney, where there is a party happening on the beach, and so that Kit can reunite with his free-spirited mother (Molly Parker), after an unresolved conflict with his father (Allan Hawco).
Built around an excellent script by Daniel MacIvor, who both harbours great affection for and a deep understanding of his characters, the first half of the film plays like a classic running away together road trip, and the second half becomes about a boy struggling to reconcile himself to the fact that his mother might not be the person he thought she was in a moving dramatic arc. Alice’s journey of reconciling herself to the fact that her best friend might not be able to reciprocate the romantic feelings she has for him is an equally emotionally resonant part of the film.
Both halves of Weirdos are equally successful at what they do, with every scene serving to enrich the next and what came before. The film packs a lot into the often wistful 84 minute running time, with the lush black and white cinematography only adding to its charm and sense of nostalgia. Even the most offbeat elements, like the apparition of Andy Warhol (Rhys Bevan-John) who becomes like a spirit animal to Kit, are naturally woven into the story in a way that works surprisingly well.
The film is grounded by wonderful performances. Dylan Authors does an excellent job of making us relate to his character’s journey of emotional and sexual awakening, and Julia Sarah Stone shines in another exceptionally nuanced performance after her breakout work in Wet Bum. Allan Hawco does nicely sympathetic work as the father, and Molly Parker turns in a memorable as the unhinged mother, who never really moved past the 1960s.
I’ve seen Weirdos twice – the first time with an audience at TIFF where I missed the first few minutes after standing in a rush line, and the second time from start to finish on a screener just last week – and both times was completely won over by it. This is a delightful small gem that is as entertaining as it is sweet and poignant, all topped off with an excellent soundtrack of ’70s Canadian songs that provide the cherry on top of an already wonderful trip. I simply adore this film.
Weirdos is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.