Bruce Macdonald and Daniel MacIvor are the Canadian film and theatre greats behind Weirdos, a sweet look back at 1976 Nova Scotia through the eyes of two shy 15-year-olds. Macdonald and MacIvor are both known primarily for their edgy sensibilities, but Weirdos plays down the attitude into a soft, easy nostalgia that washes up and takes over.
Weirdos is shot entirely in Nova Scotia, where MacIvor grew up, and instead of a series of flashbacks and time jumps, it’s a continuously funny and bittersweet road trip with two teens hitchhiking from Antigonish to Sydney. Kit (Dylan Authors) and Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) head out as boyfriend and girlfriend, in love, on the verge of “goodbye sex,” free of their parents and childish things.
Everything seems cooler on the road, thanks to Macdonald’s enduring black and white shots, and an AM radio soundtrack that’s exclusively ‘70s Canadiana (Anne Murray, anyone?). Hopping from car to car has a quiet simplicity to it, often building to inevitable teen moments like a stolen kiss or a first pass on a joint. I’m reminded of the indie film Blue Jay, where two grownups brilliantly talk about their cute relationship from the past, but also reveal the future they can never have. Kit and Alice’s problems in Weirdos get worse and more break-up worthy, too, but they’re so clearly at the beginning of their romantic lives, you hope they’ll make it through the pain.
MacIvor’s dialogue is naturally mysterious, and there’s many a big-picture theme hinted at, but not fully spelled out to consider. So, enter an imaginary Andy Warhol, acting as a kind of “spirit animal”: soft-spoken and full of guidance in Kit’s mind, who starts to own his sexuality in a way like never before. Molly Parker, as Kit’s idolized mother, Laura, delivers another great performance at the tail end of the trip. She’s like a towering force of fantasy, someone so glamorized that there’s nowhere to go but down when reality crashes in.
Brace yourselves – this isn’t a wild, inner-city ‘70s, the kind that’s so often dressed up in movies and TV, where punk rock has taken over and kids are prowling outside a bar. Sure, there’s smokes and cursing, but the kids in Weirdos are just innocently experimenting, getting in a stranger’s car and driving to a slightly bigger environment than the one they were raised in. Their walk on the wild side becomes a fateful search for acceptance and identity, and it’s touching to see how universal that is.
Weirdos opened in select theatres on April 21.