One WeekMonday, May 18th, 2009 7:30 pm—Film
One Week (Canada 2009, Drama), Writer/Director: Michael McGowan
“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”
That line closes the film One Week, the latest feature from Saint Ralph writer/director Michael McGowan (see the Saint Ralph review from April 2009), and it sums up what seems to be a major theme for McGowan. Both One Week and Saint Ralph follow male protagonists who persevere in the face of obstacles—most notably, oppressive authority figures. But unlike Ralph, whose spirit appears virtually unbreakable and keeps him from veering off course, One Week’s Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson) takes a much longer route to reach his final destination.
The film begins with Ben learning he has terminal cancer. His initial reaction is relief that he doesn’t have to continue his job or go through with a wedding to Samantha (Liane Balaban). In Ben’s words, rejection beat the creativity out of him and he’s been sleepwalking through life ever since. His Grade 4 teacher silenced his singing ambitious by maliciously telling him he had a dreadful voice. A Little League coach shamed him out of daydreaming. He gave up on his ambition of becoming a writer when his first book wasn’t promptly picked up.
For Ben, the news of his illness is an opportunity to step back and figure out what he really wants. That step back takes the form of a solo motorcycle ride across Canada—from Toronto, Ontario to Tofino, BC. Along the way, Ben meets a series of people who help him waken from his daze and figure out what really matters to him.
One Week isn’t as smooth a ride for me as Saint Ralph. But it shares with the film sincerity and a sense of humour, and there are enough heartfelt moments to buoy One Week and make it, on the whole, more than worthwhile.
Something else that endears me to the film is McGowan’s clear and unabashed love for Canada and its music. Canuck musicians Gord Downie and Emm Gryner have cameos in the film, and the entire soundtrack is Canadian. One Week pays such a loving tribute to music that I’m tempted to sprinkle this post with song lyrics. That would be a little too hokey, I think. But the fact that so many lyrics spring to mind speaks to how universal the film’s themes are: What is the price of not living your dream? How many of us are settling for a career, a partner, a life that is less than what we long for? How much can repressing your spirit poison your body?
If One Week doesn’t have quite the same magic as Saint Ralph, maybe that goes hand-in-hand with making a film about adulthood as opposed to childhood. Ultimately, One Week shows that the boy—the dreamer—is still alive in Ben, even if he takes the long way to finding him.