Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Aftermath of teacher-student affair a grim, challenging character study

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Cuckholded sad sack Henry Andreas makes the wrong choice or does the wrong thing so unfailingly, The Husband is often as hard to watch as Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office or other cringe comedies of their ilk -- but without the mitigating laughter.

That doesn't mean the Canadian-made drama isn't worth watching, however, and that's largely down to the talents of star/screenwriter Maxwell McCabe-Lokos (better known to indie-rock fans as the organ player Age of Danger for Toronto garage rock band the Deadly Snakes).

McCabe-Lokos has a captivating face, capable of quicksilver flickers of emotion and shifts in aspect that take him from pallid homeliness to hangdog handsomeness in an instant.

He uses the full span of those emotions to play Henry, whose wife Alyssa (Sarah Allen) is serving the last of her jail sentence for instigating a sexual relationship with her 14-year-old student.

At the outset, Henry is a broken man, and McCabe-Lokos's exaggerated, slumped posture and hooded eyes are painful to watch. He's going through the motions with his infant son, sabotaging himself at work and drinking himself to sleep on the couch every night.

He's jolted out of his stupor when he crosses paths with the student, Colin (Dylan Authors), and essentially starts stalking him.

His actions grow increasingly ill-advised and frantic as McCabe-Lokos the screenwriter explores all the mixed-up feelings and baggage that must come with Henry's situation -- one that's not exactly common enough to merit its own support group.

Henry's approach to confronting Colin wavers between animosity and curiosity. He regards Colin, somewhat perversely, as a rival for his wife's affections, but he also just wants to know what she saw in him.

In one beautifully handled scene, he seems to flirt with the idea of seducing his 16-year-old babysitter as some kind of two-can-play-at-that-game retribution against his wife.

In another, he lashes out against Alyssa's father (Stephen McHattie's creased paper bag of a face is always good to see), desperately searching for someone to blame.

Director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, The Tracey Fragments) and cinematographer Daniel Grant frame Henry in a flat, grey world that feels oppressive -- he's almost as imprisoned as his wife as he makes his daily commute to a job where people snicker behind his back.

The Husband is an interesting character study that takes a point of view that's rarely considered. We don't often hear from the husbands of the Mary Kay Letourneaus of the world, and one imagines that Henry's depression, emasculated rage and irrational actions might all well be part of the picture.

But Henry's character arc is more like a violent zig-zag, and despite McCabe-Lokos's inherent appeal, it's hard to get on board with someone so unpredictable. One minute he's almost catatonic and the next he's practically vibrating.

Taken individually, there are so many moments in The Husband that feel real, but they don't hang together as a believable story. And despite the movie's billing as a dark comedy, it is, in grand CanFilm tradition, almost unrelievedly grim.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 D6

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