August 18, 2019

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Boys in the woods

Canadian coming-of-age story captures confusion, elation of teen years

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/4/2016 (1207 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Set against the spectacular beauty of Lake Superior’s north shore, this coming-of-age story starts with aimless adolescent goofing around but builds, gradually and subtly, to devastating emotional effect. A remarkably assured feature-film debut from writer-director Andrew Cividino, Sleeping Giant also manages to be down-deep Canadian without any dutiful “CanCon” obviousness.

Premièring at Cannes and snagging awards at both the Toronto and Vancouver film fests, the story centres on three teenage boys, all played with easy, unforced naturalness by relative newcomers. (Two of the kids, Nick Serino and Reece Moffett, were non-actors found in an open casting call in Thunder Bay.)

Adam (Jackson Martin) is a shy, sheltered kid whose urban upper-middle-class family owns a cottage on the lakeshore. Cousins Riley and Nate (Moffett and Serino) are townies, currently living with their grandmother in a small, slightly rundown house.

Riley is sweet and socially adept, a “good kid,” but Nate is volatile and angry, already sensing, perhaps, that the world waiting on the other side of adolescence isn’t going to open up for him.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/4/2016 (1207 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Set against the spectacular beauty of Lake Superior’s north shore, this coming-of-age story starts with aimless adolescent goofing around but builds, gradually and subtly, to devastating emotional effect. A remarkably assured feature-film debut from writer-director Andrew Cividino, Sleeping Giant also manages to be down-deep Canadian without any dutiful "CanCon" obviousness.

Premièring at Cannes and snagging awards at both the Toronto and Vancouver film fests, the story centres on three teenage boys, all played with easy, unforced naturalness by relative newcomers. (Two of the kids, Nick Serino and Reece Moffett, were non-actors found in an open casting call in Thunder Bay.)

Adam (Jackson Martin) is a shy, sheltered kid whose urban upper-middle-class family owns a cottage on the lakeshore. Cousins Riley and Nate (Moffett and Serino) are townies, currently living with their grandmother in a small, slightly rundown house.

Riley is sweet and socially adept, a "good kid," but Nate is volatile and angry, already sensing, perhaps, that the world waiting on the other side of adolescence isn’t going to open up for him.

D FILMS</p><p>Sleeping Giant</p></p>

D FILMS

Sleeping Giant

Cividino and co-writers Blain Watters and Aaron Yeger incisively examine socio-economic class, adolescent identity and family dynamics, without ever being explicit about these issues. Rather, the film concentrates on the characters’ moods, which are shifty and unpredictable, pulled around by restless physical energy.

Adam’s nervous parents pester him about wearing his bike helmet and sunscreen, but out of their sight, he’s exhilarated by Nate and Riley’s recklessness, joining in as they whack things with sticks, set things on fire, attach fireworks to skateboards, and rip off liquor from the gas-station convenience store. More ominously, a legendary 30-metre cliff looms large in the boys’ imaginations. It’s been nicknamed "Todd’s Cliff" after some poor kid who died trying to jump off it into the lake, and we sense it will feature, maybe fatally, in the outcome of this story.

The tippy triangular relationship among the boys becomes even more unstable when Nate spitefully tells Adam that his father (David Disher), an aging hipster a little too desperate for "cool dad" status, is involved with a local woman. Meanwhile, Riley and Adam’s bond is challenged when Riley starts making out with Taylor (Katelyn McKerracher), Adam’s childhood friend, though the jealousy doesn’t play out in the expected way.

Cividino spends a lot of time watching kids mope around and do stupid stuff but his filmmaking is sneakily disciplined. He’s aided by sharply beautiful cinematography from James Klopko and a brooding score from Chris Thornborrow and the band Bruce Peninsula.

This is adolescence without Hollywood hijinkery or European poetry. Cividino is compassionate towards his characters but also stark in his exposure of the casual cruelty and intense self-absorption of adolescence. While the story is about teens, it isn’t made for teens. In fact, Sleeping Giant should probably be watched only by adults, who can look back knowing they somehow managed to live through those confusing, difficult, sometimes dangerous years.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

 

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Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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