It’s not very often that you get to go into a theatre to watch a film and have no preconceived notions on how or what that film will be, but I really think that’s the beauty of being able to attend the Film Festival. You don’t turn on the television and see billboards of these movies, and can assume a blank slate before watching anything. Having said that, I can’t tell you if Cole was one of the best movies I’ve seen this year because it caught me so suddenly off guard, or because it truly was just fantastic film making. What a great way to spend my Friday afternoon.
The movie from the start is a homage to rural British Columbia, taking place in Lytton, BC: dry sand and rock, hot sun, and the “country” way of life, it’s always 5 o’clock with the sun on the back of your neck in Lytton. The title character’s name, I’m going to assume you guessed, is Cole (Richard de Klerk), and Cole lives with his sister Maybelline (Sonja Bennett), her two children (the eldest half-african american from a previous relationship), her redneck boyfriend Bobby played by Chad Willett (mullet not sold separately), and his mentally absent and speechless Mother. The family owns the only gas station in Lytton, and Cole’s passion for writing leads to him getting into a creative writing class at UBC which he ditches working at the business more and more for, to drive the three hours to and from school once a week. During class, his attention is caught by a beautiful fellow student Serafina (Kandyse McClure) who quickly finds she needs a tutor. We can see where this is going. It’s a classic case of Princess and Pauper, and Cole finds himself keeping his “redneck” life in Lytton a secret to Serafina’s priveleged family and upbringing, and harder and harder to balance the two.
The relationships in this movie leap off the screen and sit in your lap. The exquisitely believable and tender relationship between Cole and his Nephew affectionately nicknamed Rocket, is so true to itself that I found myself nearly in tears just watching them talk. A great performance by first timer, little Jack Forrester. I really could not picture the movie or their relationship succeeding without his naturality. Chad Willet’s performance kept you on edge without being over the top, and what a great hick he was with the language, alcoholism and abuse wrapped into a nice little Canadian stereotype blanket. The absolutely stunning Kandyse McClure delivered not only a solid performance but was enchanting as the “I’m Too Perfect” girl breaking free from familial life, and the chemistry between Richard De Klerk and herself was captivating. As the main character, Richard De Klerk played Cole as everything a main character should have been, keeping the movie rolling, keeping the emotion and dialogue strong and natural, and inviting you into not only the love story between Cole and Serafina, but as the clearly talented Vancouver director Carl Bessai said at the Q&A session afterwards, invited you into the love (and maybe hate) story between Cole and Lytton.
An almost exclusively Canadian soundtrack kept the movie intimate, although one too many indescript Elliot Smith sounding three chord acoustic folkers blended into each other. But hey if that’s my only REAL complaint…
I absolutely cannot write for HOMOrazzi without mentioning how stunning Richard De Klerk is and how nervous I was that he would catch me still wiping away a tear or making a bad face during the Q&A after drooling over him for 95 minutes. Tight shirts do a body good. Or is it milk? Meh.
From start to finish Cole was warm and runny and universably relatable to anyone who grew up in a small town. Soon to be a rainy day movie in my DVD collection, I pray for a wider release and hope you give this small privately funded and local film a chance, because it’s a gooder.
Homorazzi Interview with Cole Producers
Interview with Richard de Clerk