By Anne Brodie
The Canadian Reads 2015 book Ru, the dramatic true story of Kim Thúy whose family fled Vietnam for Canada, endured a nerve-shattering journey and adjustment to a strange culture has been adapted for the big screen. They were the so-called “boat people” fleeing a murderous regime. Their arrival in Quebec, to sponsors, freedom, and a new life, as devastated as they were, offers the hope of healing and newness in safety. Even so, memories of Communist oppression haunted her, years later, half a world away. Real-life Quebec actor Karine Vanasse worked in Thúy’s restaurant occasionally, encouraged her to write out her story and it became an award-winning book. The film features a wonderfully mature performance by Chloé Djandji as young Kim and Chantal Thuy’s sensitive portrayal of Kim as an adult brings emotional richness. And new experiences of pure joy – singing around a bonfire with new Canadian friends, opening thriving businesses – allow us the luxury of relishing their successful immigration. As for Thúy, her books won the Chevalière de l’Ordre national du Québec, the Governor General’s Literary Award, and was a finalist for the New Academy Prize in Literature (Alternative Nobel) among other awards. Ru is a major hit in Quebec and is finally in English Canadian theatres.
Leah McKendrick is Nellie in Scrambled, a witty baby panic comedy McKendrick also wrote and directed. The self-proclaimed “eternal bridesmaid” is feeling the pressures of being 34, and wanting children. No relationships have worked out, and she’s incessantly needled by her father and brother as being less than for her failure to reproduce. And medically speaking, she’s in “fertility geriatric” territory, with a diminished ovarian reserve. There’s no man, she won’t use a sperm bank so goes for a third option – harvesting the remaining eggs for use later on. Supported by loyal girlfriends, Nellie ventures forth on the egg-freezing journey and sleeps with a couple of fellows who are unsuitable for relationships, but no pregnancy joy. Mostly played for laughs, it shifts when she joins a miscarriage grief group and faces reality. Great writing, smart, funny, witty, a tad acid, and unforgivingly realistic. Nellie is appealingly out there as she takes a stand to live her life her way, damn the dissenters. Surprisingly moving for a sex comedy, it speaks to women who don’t choose or get to choose a conventional life. Also stars starring Ego Nwodim, Andrew Santino, Adam Rodriguez, Laura Cerón, and Clancy Brown. Select theatres in Toronto, Niagara and Vancouver and on TVOD.
Five iterations and one parody later, Prime Video launches a new Mr. and Mrs. Smith today, an action comedy about two spy school grads thrown together in a secret mission and who may or may not have tonnes of chemistry. John (Donald Glover) and Jane (Maya Erskine) are CIA and FBI rejects; she’s considered anti-social and he was dishonourably discharged. But out of the blue comes a high-stakes, high-risk gig nicely suited to their personalities. They submit to a fake cover marriage as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, will carry out one dangerous mission a week, live in a sweet Manhattan condo, and be ready for anything. Boom! With explosive situations, weapons, gadgets and gizmos at the ready, they dive in and find themselves playing weird sex games with John Turturro’s billionaire. But sparks between them are flying! Secretive neighbour (Paul Dano) spies on them, and the occasional body they dump in the composter. And so off on dangerous intelligence adventures in exotic global locations. Fearless, fun, dangerous and kinda sexy.
The CBC looks at women’s significant contributions to law and order in the new police series Allegiance. Set in Surrey B.C. and starring Supinder Wraich as Sabrina a gifted rookie police officer the series takes them to the local criminal underbelly. First off, it’s her graduation day. Her father, a Federal Minister, watches the ceremony with pride when he’s arrested on treason charges. The timing sends a clear message. She’s in an uncomfortable place, with her father’s setup, and in the detachment, racism, sexism and misogyny. Her mentor Vince Brambilla (Enrico Colantoni) believes in her even if her thinking’s a bit “woke”. But young male officers seem to have it in for her and her talent and reputation for excellence. The unit is investigating crimes leading to a violent far-right extremist and white supremacist subculture. This and other timely issues, including a “compassionate” hard drug-dealing grandmother, find Allegiance on the edge, reflecting troubling aspects of Canadian society as it stands. Highly capable and smart female police officers and detectives have been the bedrock of TV since at least the early 70s’. From Angie Dickinson in Police Woman, Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless in Cagney and Lacey, to Canada’s Stana Katic in Castle, the iconic brilliant officers played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lamb and True Detective: Night Country. Today’s top-ranked female police officials and lawyers, as in the Law & Order franchise, are high achievers. Sohal is one of them. Feb. 7 on CBC Gem and CBC TV.
Sir Lenny Henry, the beloved British actor and comedian, created the series Three Little Birds for BritBox to shine a light on three female family members who made the brave journey from Jamaica to Britain in search of a better life in the 50s. Britain wasn’t kind to Blacks so there was much to overcome in a new culture, classism, racism, and cold weather. Rochelle Neil as Leah, Saffron Coomber as her sister Chantrelle, and their pal Yazmin Belo as Hosanna are the little birds who flew from the generational nest to a new land, filled with optimism. Hosanna is deeply religious and shocked by British culture and the male patriarchy; Chantrelle and Leah try to cool her jets because they’re not going back. During their struggles and triumphs they retain an optimistic worldview, their fluttering newness and sweet, sensitive natures – and even their dress sense – are appealingly courageous. Each has her reason for making the journey, finding stardom “like Elizabeth Taylor”, a suitable husband and escaping an unsuitable one. Even as they navigate serious challenges, the series never devolves into darkness, not with these three little birds. Now on BritBox.
CBC looks at what happens to our bodies and souls when we lose a romantic partner in Love Hurts: The Science Of Heartbreak on The Nature of Things next week. Valentine’s Day can be painful for those recovering from loss so if that’s you tune in to find out why the loss hurts the way it does. Host Anthony Morgan travels to speak with experts in the science of love (they exist), physiology, psychology, brain function, and individuals who’ve had their hearts dashed to get to the bottom of why it hurts so dang much. Evolution figures into the equation: it’s not something we choose. And science is working to reduce the sting. A company in Quebec is re-developing propranolol an existing pill used to treat angina to take the edge off the pain and memories without erasing the memories. We meet folks who had good and fast outcomes. Scientists say that the shorter the recovery time from lost love, the less lasting damage we do to our bodies and minds. Love expert Helen Fisher, a leader in the discipline since the 70s, advises a woman in recovery, shows her brain imagery, and points out that some of the pain comes from deep biology, the lost opportunity to “send one’s DNA into tomorrow”. Morgan asks an audience to divide itself into either “I’ll take the pill” or “I’ll suffer” groups and the vast majority opted for suffering. Directed by Karen Cho. On CBC TV and CBC Gem Feb 9.