Bruce McDonald’s 2016 TIFF offering, Weirdos, is the kind of film that makes you glad you went to the movies.
The title is a flashback to ‘70s jargon, where ‘weirdo’ was a common expression used to describe anyone who wasn’t like everyone else.
Set in 1976 Cape Breton, the principle weirdos in this magical collaboration by McDonald and playwright Daniel MacIvor are two teenage misfits, Kit (Dylan Authors) and his girlfriend Alice (Julia Sarah Stone,) who are desperately seeking to bring some colour into their black-and-white lives. Together they hitchhike their way to the big city – in this case, Sidney, Nova Scotia – where Kit plans to live with his glamorous mother (Molly Parker.) And although at first glance Weirdos resembles a teenage road movie, Kit and Julia soon learn that sometimes the destination is the journey.
Regardless of the size of their roles, McDonald has a wonderful way of giving his actors their moments to shine. Molly Parker should be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her tempestuous portrayal of Kit’s unstable mother. Allan Hawco offers a stellar, close-to-the-bone performance as Kit’s struggling father. Cathy Jones is heartwarming as Kit’s stiff-upper-lip grandmother. Rhys Bevan-John intrigues and entices in a high-risk cameo role that happily pays off. And thanks to McDonald’s light touch and MacIvor’s justifiably celebrated way with words, young scene-stealers Dylan Authors and Julia Sarah Stone win and keep us rooting for them from start to finish.
Given the lavish natural beauty of Cape Breton, Becky Parson’s soft black-and-white cinematography keeps us focused on story, not scenery, McDonald’s ‘70s soundtrack is a lyrical blend of rhythm and nostalgia, and all of it makes for outstanding viewing. Weirdos is anything but weird, but it sure is fun to watch.