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VOD Review: Red Rover

May 12, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Damon (Kristian Bruun), the main character in the enjoyable Canadian dramedy Red Rover which opened the Canadian Film Festival last year and is being released on VOD today, is a lonely geologist in Toronto, who feels like he doesn’t have much left for him on earth.

He lives in the basement of a house that he still shares with his ex-girlfriend (Meghan Heffern), who has now moved in her hot new Australian boyfriend (Morgan David Jones). But things change one day when Damon is combing for treasure at the beach, and is approached by a young woman wearing a spacesuit, who it turns out is also in the process of trying to find herself.

Her name is Phoebe (Cara Gee), and she is an eccentric musician who is working as a promoter for an organization called Red Rover. The company is holding an international competition offering twenty participants the chance to go on a one-way research mission to Mars as part of a reality show they are producing. With Phoebe’s help, Damon starts trying to qualify for one of the slots, desperate for the chance to leave Earth and never come back. But as he comes to fall in love with Phoebe, he experiences conflicting emotions and starts to question if he actually wants to leave this planet after all.

Directed by Shane Belcourt, crafting his first narrative feature since Tkaronto in 2007, Red Rover is a polished and ambitious high concept film that works on multiple levels. The film is very satisfying when viewed simply as a charming romantic comedy, but it also works as a surprisingly touching look at trying to escape from the pain of your life instead of coming to terms with it. The story is laced with thoughtful, philosophical undertones about the problems with colonizing another planet, instead of trying to make the best of the one we’ve already got.

Belcourt’s screenplay, which he co-wrote with Duane Murray, allows for both quirky humour and moments of greater depth, including a beautifully written and performed scene set on the Sky Ride at the Canadian National Exhibition, the culmination of a lovely montage that provides a turning point for the characters. Bruun does excellent work in the leading role as a character struggling with loneliness and heartbreak, and Gee does a solid job of taking a character who could seem like your typical manic pixie dream girl and giving her more layers of depth and appeal.

All in all, Red Rover is a great example of a relatively small, character-driven film that also manages to explore some pretty big ideas about loneliness, isolation and colonization. It’s a homegrown film that is well worth your time watching at home during these uniquely strange and troubling times.

Red Rover is now available to rent and purchase on a variety of VOD platforms, including iTunes.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2019 Canadian Film Festival.

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