Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cannes 2013: Going South Review

Director/Writer Jefferson Moneo

Starring: Coral Aiken, John Brodsky, Shana Dowdeswell

Synopsis Martha wants to escape her rural life. When a mysterious drifter shows up on her farm, will she finally get her chance?

Jefferson Moneo’s love for his local landscapes is the unmistakable heart of Going South. There are elements that feel borrowed or imitated but the pictorial projection of his homeland is strikingly unique.

The story concerns a young woman, Martha (played by the late Shana Dowdeswell – to which the film is dedicated) dulled by the rural, monotonous life she’s leading. One afternoon a mysterious man drives up to her asking for directions south. Seeing him she is overcome with lust and a desire to ride away with him.

With Moneo juxtaposing the notion of “home sweet home” with his location work and then the protagonist’s yearning for escape, Going South is slightly confused with its message. The negative representation of the area is undoubtedly revolved around the people that inhabit it – the Canadian version of rednecks – yet contrasted with the sheer beauty of the surroundings. In the end it seems to largely promote Canada, rather than just devaluing one province.

You instantly feel the isolation of the prairie town, with some static shots that hold you within the barren environment. Further to that, the cinematography that includes dazzling shots of skylines, envelope the frame in whiteness or darkness (depending on day or night) always firmly planting you in the moment.

Taken as a negative or positive point, the characters also enable you to feel familiar to the trashy and unexciting Saskatchewan locale. Some are clichéd (such as the father figure and odd characters seen wandering around at the start of the film) which aren’t aspects of creative writing, but are helpful in establishing a connection early and quickly. Martha isn’t one of these clichéd characters but you can tell right away from Shana Dowdeswell’s eyes that Martha is tired of her home. Opposed to Martha, the man she eventually falls for – dressed in black with slicked back hair – is unoriginal. So for whenever Going South seems lacklustre you notice something fresh like the photography or Martha, before feeling a sigh at the tedious parts like the stereotypes or cartoon types (the man in black).

As an auteur (however early it may be to use such a term for a young short film director) Moneo is building up an interesting collection of country-based stories. Going South is nothing special in narrative terms but it is well edited and beautifully shot. The main attraction of the piece is Shana Dowdeswell but tragically this film becomes a memorial piece for what would have been an exciting career.

Going South was competing in the Cinefondation Selection at Cannes 2013. Also published Nisimazine Cannes 2013 (page 65)

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