CIFF 2013: The Shape of Rex
Canadian film details a rekindled romance after lives lived apart
There you are, living your adult life, until someone you dated in high school connects with you online. What if you correspond, then meet up, and it feels as good as when the two of you left off — but you’re married to someone else and have kids?
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Exactly how you proceed to judge the cheating hearts in this capable and movingdrama will tell you something about yourself.- Mario Trono
That’s the big, prairie-wide “what if” asked by The Shape of Rex, a Canadian film set in Saskatoon in both the 1980s and the present day. We get the story of 16-year-old, open-hearted Rose (Vivien Endicott-Douglas), how she falls for the slightly older and passionate Rex (Brett Donahue), and how Rose’s domineering father stops the budding romance dead in its tracks.
Friday at 7 p.m.
Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
All this transpires in flashback, as we also see their adult versions (played by Ryan Hollyman and Monica Dottor) now immersed in their own conventional family lives not far from the Saskatchewan River. Those waters are a perfect metaphor for time’s relentless flow but also for memories, which eddy and swirl in the moment, as you drink a coffee at work but then suddenly recall a Clearasil-scented kiss from back when you carried fake ID.
But the adult Rose and Rex can’t help themselves. Their young romance was cut short so they pick it up, acting like kids by messaging each other and making play romantic lists, with one adult exception — clandestine hotel encounters away from trusting spouses and offspring.
The Shape of Rex has done well on the circuit of lesser-known film festivals. It’s been screened at the Kansas and Fargo festivals and picked up an award at the Canada International Film Festival.
Director Layne Coleman gets fine performances from young and adult performers, right from the start of the film where it’s revealed early on that, unbeknownst to Rex, he is the father of Rose’s grown daughter.
Moral ambiguity abounds. Well, somewhat. As kids, these two loved each other fiercely and might have married had it not been for outdated parental rules about dating and sex. They’ve got unfinished — and passionate — business, and you feel for them. But the train-wreck toll that love affairs take on families is served up painfully in this film, which forces a judgment from you. Exactly how you proceed to judge these cheating hearts as you watch this solid screen drama will tell you something about yourself.
See it or not?
See it. If you’re allergic to Canadian cinema, get over yourself. Sure, I could quibble about some lighting and blocking problems in this one (as I could with many American flicks), but all films make small mistakes. What matters is if they have enough quality to make you not care, and this one does. Watch especially for standout performances from Endicott-Douglas as young Rose and from Aviva Armour Ostroff as Rex’s wife.