reviewed by Marc Glassman
One Week. Michael McGowan, director and writer. Starring: Joshua Jackson (Ben Tyler), Liane Balaban (Samantha Pierce), Campbell Scott (the Narrator), Emm Gryner
A melodrama with a difference, One Week is that rarity, a Canadian film with real commercial potential.
The film starts off with a bang: twenty-something Ben Tyler is told by his doctor that he has terminal cancer, with two years, tops, to live.
Played tersely with almost Pinteresque hesitations, the scene is oddly comical. At one point, young Tyler imagines that he’s been shot dead and is lying on the floor. Every question by the unnerved Tyler and his chagrined doctor is turned into pithy but sinister repartee.
The tone for Michael McGowan’s film is set right away — and so is the completely gripping backstory. His main character Ben Tyler is a typical Canadian lad — vaguely hip, vaguely in love, vaguely working, vaguely a respectful son and brother. He’s engaged to Samantha, an actuary, who is pretty, responsible and quite conservative. Samantha doesn’t like to take risks — and when told the bad news, she wants Ben to start treatments right away.
After all, he has a 10% chance to survive.
It takes Ben little time to shuck off all pretenses of a normal life and head out on a motorcycle — a bad risk item according to Samantha — on that fabled road west. Temporarily, of course. At first, Ben gives himself a weekend to figure out his life. Then, it’s a week. Soon, he’s on his way to Banff and eventually the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way, he meets quirky characters, has a one-night fling with a lovely singer (Emm Gryner) and spends an inordinate amount of time shooting photos of himself next to gigantic pop sculptures of everything from elephants to geese. And calling Samantha.
What holds this good-hearted, unpretentious picture together is the very real dilemma that Ben Tyler is facing. Should he give up, submit to treatment and, most likely, die unfulfilled? Or should he at least have one adventure — and maybe find himself on the road?
The answers to these questions are comical and moving. One Week obliquely touches on serious issues — but, being Canadian, doesn’t insist on anything.
Take Michael McGowan’s ride: it’s well worth the trip.