Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Two tales of survival, both grim downers

  • Print

If Canadian movies have a reputation for being dour and downbeat, the two opening this week are not going to do anything to reverse that impression.

The Disappeared and Whitewash are movies that touch on common Canuck themes -- survival, masculinity, madness -- shot with a maximum of minimalism. Both depict battles against the elements. Both include at least one attempted suicide. Both feature somewhat recognizable American actors in the foreground. Both end on a note of ambiguity.

One needn't expect sellout crowds for either.

The Quebec-made Whitewash is the more interesting of the two. It's being billed as a story of survival and redemption, but the film's most redemptive act is a good deed for which its hero is relentlessly punished.

Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) is Bruce, a snowplow operator living a bitter existence in a remote community in rural Quebec. In the chronologically fractured narrative, it emerges that he is a widower who has hit the bottle to cope with the death of his wife.

In a market parking lot, he comes upon Paul (Marc Lebréche), an even more desperate character attempting to kill himself. Bruce intervenes and tries to befriend Paul, a degenerate gambler whose debts -- monetary or ethical -- are beyond his reach. It turns out Paul is not worthy of the life-saving gesture. Their relationship concludes with Bruce on the run from the authorities, taking refuge in his snowplow, stuck deep in the snowy Quebec woods.

Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, making his feature debut, gets thespian bang for (presumably) limited bucks from Church, an actor whose penchant for hangdog loners gets taken to a new level with a consistently compelling portrait of isolation taken to its limit.

-- -- --

The Disappeared is a more familiar tale of survival on the sea. It's set entirely on open water in the Atlantic, where six crew members of a sunken fishing vessel attempt to make their way home, paddling more than 300 kilometres in a couple of leaky dories.

The American in this otherwise Canadian cast is Billy Campbell (Once and Again, The Killing) as Mannie, a first mate whose wounded arm promises lots of juicy dramatic fireworks.

In this stressful situation, fractures emerge between the ship's crusty skipper (Brian Downey) and the rebellious crewman Pete (Shawn Doyle), between a bitter father (Gary Levert) and his inexperienced son (Neil Matheson), and between the wounded Mannie and everyone else.

Written and directed by another feature newcomer -- Edmonton-born Shandi Mitchell -- The Disappeared was unlucky to be released in the same proximity as All Is Lost, a more accomplished movie that demonstrates it is possible to build dramatic tension with practically no dialogue and no supporting cast.

Even so, this is a fairly accomplished first feature, shot on location under presumably arduous circumstances; Mitchell has a sure hand at the rudder, even if her narrative vessel is as rough-hewn and leaky as its dories.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2014 G3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - I Just Want A Race

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


Does Canada need a national inquiry into the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google