Directed by Andrew Cividino
A coming-of-age tale that turns on three teenagers who are having a vacation by a lakeside.
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★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant is quite an achievement when one takes into consideration that it is the work of a first time feature filmmaker. It’s more of a “slice of life” sort of movie than one with a clear and easy-to-summarize narrative, but it’s essentially a very good film concentrating on loss of innocence, scattered with moments of greatness that are usually brought to the surface by its strong technical aspects (from its stylized editing to its sporadic shifts in tone). On a level of storytelling, it excels in its subtleties; there’s a homoerotic undercurrent that runs throughout the duration of the film, and yet emotions are never spelled out, only implied. Cividino leaves his viewers to draw connections between certain images and sounds, and I respect a director who can throw exposition entirely out of the window and show his audience things rather than tell them every last detail.
The performances are fine - there aren’t exactly any standout actors in the film, but I must compliment the three leads on their ability to make me feel like I knew their characters, like I spent my summers with them years ago. This can be attributed to the seemingly loose script; much of the dialogue felt improvised, but in a refreshing way rather than a distracting one. All in all, Sleeping Giant is an impressive display of technical skills that also has a lot to say about the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Above all else though, its a beautiful exploration of mortality.
★★★½ review by Jane Firehorse on Letterboxd
this is a touching coming-of-age dramedy about three 14-15 year old boys who spend time together during their summer holidays at Lake Superior.
the boys are portrayed as both hilarious and poignant in their growing pains and uncertainties; their families are all, in a way, broken, and the kids are learning to come to terms with that harsh reality.
i think director andrew cividino exhibits a very gentle hand with his narrative and his actors, never really forcing anything; thus, the film evolves organically, even with some savvy cuts.
by far, though, my favourite parts of the film are those more joyful moments, when the boys reveal that strange mixture of rebellion and childishness that comes with the early teenage years.
the more dramatic elements certainly don't spoil the film, but it definitely peaks when the kids are unleashed.
cividino won "best first canadian feature" at the TIFF, and indeed, there's a lot of promise in his work. it'll be interesting to see where he goes next. he has expressed interest in doing a genre film, specifically horror, and i think i can see why. his shots of the cliffs in this film made me think of "picnic at hanging rock" and some of the movie's close-ups (burning bugs, eating adults!) are positively frightening!
~ VIFF 1 ~
★★★★½ review by JC on Letterboxd
The "Canadian answer to Boyhood" sounds pretty appropriate to me in this wonderfully authentic slice-of-life film, set in the cottage country of Thunder Bay, Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Seeing the beautiful wilderness & scenery of northern Ontario brought me back to the family camping trips we took growing up - including a similarly intimidating rock to jump off of.... only not quite that high!
Jackson Martin is Adam Hudson, a 15-year old boy who travels to their summer cottage annually with his parents Bill (David Disher) and Linda (Lorraine Philp). He's extremely timid and shy, strictly following his parents' rules along with little ways his parents coddle him. He's also afraid to reveal his true feelings towards longtime friend at the cottage, Taylor (Katelyn McKerracher) for fear of ruining the friendship. He's constantly hanging around with two cousins, sh*t-disturber Nate (Nick Serino) and laid-back Riley (Reece Moffett) - both give him a hard time to varying degrees. There also seems to be a sexual interest from Adam to one of the coucins, but nothing overtly explicit. All the while, there's a "legend" Brad (Kyle Bertrand) who's known among the teens for jumping off a 100ft rock into the water below - a feat the boys are in awe of.
All the performances come off authentic, with dialogue reminiscent of a Linklater film - always sounding improvisational but never rambling or directionless. Nick Serino gets the big dramatic moments as a teen who's out for trouble and slightly off his hinges, but Adam deserves just as much recognition in the opposite role, always appearing unsure of himself with a lack of confidence, while trying to avoid confrontation at all costs. The main crush Taylor is also played well when called upon by Katelyn McKerracher - some of the great standout moments have her involved, whether acting or reacting.
What makes the film memorable, and to me a reminder of recent Jeff Nichols works like Mud & Take Shelter, are the little moments taken to appreciate the scenery and nature of northern Ontario. We see bugs crawling around, plenty of trees and sunlight, and organic sounds of the calm waters and nature. There's an original score by Chris Thornborrow & band 'Bruce Penninsula' that adds great effect - particularly a moment in the arcade & lazer tag, adding a great deal of tension and unease.
All in all, this film is one to get your hands on, and I hope it gets a wider distribution whether on Netflix or a strong DVD/Blu-Ray release. More people need to see this one - and all the independent awards & nominations speak greater than I ever could. Highly recommended!
★★★½ review by Nonomoi on Letterboxd
I'm not feeling well...
I think this feeling can be constant during all the movie..
It's a movie that can disturb you through its apparent subtlety.
Well, I think I don't have nothing more important to write about it cause I would spoil it and I simply don't want this.
Just a note: That Nate was boring me all the movie..It's ironic cause maybe he was the most sincere person although he just show this through irritating behaviours.
★★★½ review by alex on Letterboxd
The second half is where it kinda goes down in quality but nonetheless a well made film that's lively when it knows to be, and realistic display of teen agitation
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