Bruce McDonald's Weirdos (2016) is having its exclusive online premiere on MUBI. It is showing from June 23 - July 23, 2018 in the United States.
Bruce McDonald’s Weirdos is a beautiful and poignant lament to the loss of adolescence. Set in Nova Scotia in 1976, shot in crisp black and white, and apportioning much of its screen time to meditative close-ups on characters’ faces, Weirdos is a coming-of-age road movie that delicately explores the lives of its teenage protagonists, Kit (Dylan Authors) and Alice (Julia Sarah Stone), over the course of a single weekend.
Kit, played by the boyishly awkward and sparkling Authors, decides to leave his unconventional family home where he lives with his single father (Allan Hawco) and matriarchal grandmother (Cathy Jones), to hitchhike with his girlfriend Alice to Sydney, in the hopes of reuniting with his absent but deified mother (Molly Parker). Kit packs a small suitcase, but is intent on a permanent move. Alice, whose parents are also going through a fractious separation, is keen to leave her own dysfunctional home life and follow Kit on his travels.
Kit and Alice’s relationship is at once juvenile and profound. Without strong or loving parental support, their friendship represents the most significant relationship in their lives. Frustrated by Kit’s unrequited promise of ‘goodbye’ sex, and skeptical of his love for her beyond the bounds of friendship, Alice follows Kit on his travels in the hopes of convincing him to stay with her. Alice, played arrestingly by Stone, appears as the more mature and cynical of the duo, but her oftentimes frosty demeanor belies a deep desire for parental love and human connection.
Packing his hairdryer for the trip, and experiencing surreal and comic apparitions from his idol and ‘spirit animal’ Andy Warhol, Kit is a quietly flamboyant and sensitive teenager. His conflicted sexuality plays out touchingly over the course of the film. Preoccupied with the mythology he has created around his mother, and disconnected from his father over a homophobic comment made in his presence, Kit’s journey to Sydney becomes one of both self-discovery and acceptance.
Daniel McIvor’s script explores the insecurities of adolescence in quaint and honest simplicity. Weirdos moves gently and without judgement around its characters, probing their flaws and failings, allowing each to grow expansively within the humble scope of the story. In many respects, Weirdos is first and foremost a meditative character study, paring away any grandiose action to allow its characters express their shared vulnerabilities in fragile interactions. Many of the shots are framed through windows, doorways and mirrors, evoking the visual tropes of the classic melodrama, and engaging us in a more heightened and pensive emotionality.
In a particularly moving scene toward the film’s close, after Kit has discovered the truth behind his mother’s protracted absence, we observe through an open doorway as his father embraces his weeping mother. Unlike many coming-of-age films, Weirdos focuses strong attention on its parental figures, who are sympathetically and tragically drawn. The film’s exploration of mental illness is gracious and salient, and like all of its characterisation, Weirdos treats brokenness and disconnectedness as a mark of humanity.
Despite its so richly realized setting of 70s Canada, its soundtrack and pop paraphernalia, Weirdos speaks as a modern and relevant piece of cinema. Short and sweet, and at times nauseatingly evocative of teenage naivety and self-doubt, Weirdos is both a literal and symbolic glimpse back in time, reminding us that the pain and profundity of adolescence will always be timeless.