By Daniel Ring
Bleeding Mexicans, porn stars, a crazy desert lady - this is movie has it all. And for a Canadian film that’s emotional and gritty this is not a combination you would expect. Directed by Matthew Bissonnette, Passenger Side stars two brothers; Michael (Adam Scott) and Tobey (Joel Bissonnette) and follows them on a soul searching adventure through the City of Angels.
Currently playing at various film festivals all over the world, Passenger Side has been received very positively by film critics. It won the Citytv Best Canadian Feature Award and has been listed as a “top pick” at the London Film Festival. Just recently, it was showing at Montreal’s 38th Festival du Nouveau Cinema.
It is a story of one man’s search for the woman he loves and his brother’s support in finding it. Though the plot loosely comes together, it is heartwarming and amusing enough to keep the audience interested. The history of the two protagonists is slowly revealed through the witty banter they both share whilst driving on this expedition to meet rather strange selection of individuals – each more ridiculous than the last.
The comedy is suitably subtle and self deprecating, a combination that the Canadian brothers fit comfortably into. Ridiculous situations are answered with dry one-liners that make the characters seem endearing rather than annoying. The witty banter the two brothers share on their journey is juxtaposed with heartwarming moments and the melancholy undertones that ultimately lead to the film’s climax.
The fact that the Matt and Joel Bissonnette are both brothers means that the relationship between Michael and Tobey must be somewhat autobiographical – a lot of history is hinted at throughout the film and has something in it that any two brothers could relate to. From forgetting your brother’s birthday or dealing with an overbearing parent to keeping deep secrets from one another, it deals with a lot of issues siblings may have or had to face.
The film has a very gritty, indie feel; it doesn’t pander to mainstream tastes. The long shots with no dialogue and quirky humor may put some people off. It’s depiction of LA is also one of a grimy, rundown city – this is not the glossy Hollywood metropolis that many may think exists on the sun-drenched west coast. The characters feel real and the setting feels real, which is why the increasingly unreal situations the characters find themselves in work so well.
This is a film that bears some of the grim realities of complicated relationships between friends and family, and while it leaves nothing to the imagination – the encounter with the transsexual being a case in point – it manages to do it with charm and wit. It is to sibling relationships what black and white television is to color, as Michael explains early in the film: “reality, without the makeup.”
Passenger Side is next showing at The Times BFI London Film Festival on the 25th and 27th of October.