Film Reviews

THE PERFECT SON

By • Jan 12th, 2001 •

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CANADA, 2000
93 Minutes

The Nortel Palm Springs Film Festival is most notable for showcasing the largest number of foreign product on the entire West Coast. Held in late January of this year, it hosted a number of cinematic delights, one most noteworthy being a Canadian entry entitled THE PERFECT SON. Written by Leonard Farlinger, this effort marks his directorial debut.

The tale begins as Theo (David Cubitt), a drug addict just out in the world again after another of his many excursions into rehab is reunitedwith his brother Ryan (Colm Feore) for the funeral of their father. Unlike his brother who has lived life on the edge, Ryan, an attorney, has established himself as an accomplishedprofessional. Settling the details of their father’s will they are forced to reconcile a lifetime of differences with each other. Through ensuing circumstances Theo discovers Ryan not only is gay but terminally ill. In addition to all of this, Theo has become involved once again with Sarah (Chandra West), a former girlfriend and medical intern. Sarah informs Theo she has become pregnant with his child and has arranged to have an abortion. Theo must now cope with the impending death of his brother andprepare for the possible arrival of his first child. He is confronted, challenged and fundamentally transformed with life and death issues as he reclaims his humanity and personhood.

THE PERFECT SON is neither a work of ‘gay cinema’ nor does it qualify as a film about the AIDS epidemic (it’s no LONGTIME COMPANION,that’s for sure). Leonard Farlinger’s tour de force screenplay is emotionally rich and heart-wrenchingly real. Characters and situations are not at all sanitized nor sugar-coated as was the case in the breakthrough PHILADELPHIA of many years ago. Farlinger admitted to this writer that his film is indeed the portrait of his relationship with his own brother whom he lost years ago. Inspite of the serious gravity and potential for tragedy the story has, Farlinger has imbued this opus with many humorous and touching moments. Indeed, the spirit and humanity of Colm Feore’s Ryan is somewhat reminiscent of the Steve Buscemi character in the triumphant PARTING GLANCES (1986), an early entry in the cinema history of the AIDS crisis.

The small cast is truly inspired. Colm Feore portrays Ryan as a rather smug and self-righteous professional who becomes humanized once his disease takes over and grows dependent upon his brother and learns to love him in spite of a past of which he has never approved. Feore’s career includes many high-profile credits including PEARL HARBOR (2001) with Alec Baldwin & Ben Affleck, THE INSIDER (1999) with Russell Crowe and TITUS (1999) with Anthony Hopkins & Jessica Lange. After reading THE PERFECT SON, Feore was sold on interpreting the role of Ryan. “Iwanted to do something as serious as THE PERFECT SON but that also had a poetic, almost fable element to it. Leonard [Farlinger] has a seemingly very straightforward story about two estranged brothers who end up reunited. But how did they get there? I think Leonard’s cinema has an enormous amount of poetry to it.” Admits Farlinger, “He [Feore] is a brilliant actor and he has this exceptionally dry wit. I knew he could play the character with the perfect mixture of sympathy, humor and arrogance.” Regarding his role Feore added, “We see Ryan after he has succeeded and he is on his way out. And he’s more open and vulnerable to all kinds of different things you wouldn’t expect someone like that to be. There were all kinds of nuances Leonard and I felt we could address—sort of reveal him as he goes out into the light. And that captivated me.”

The smolderingly handsome David Cubitt gives a stellar performance as a lost soul who eventually finds life truly is worth living. His film credits include ALIVE (1991) starring Ethan Hawke & Vincent Spano, K2 (1991) starring Michael Biehn & Matt Craven. He has also appeared on the small screen in series hits ‘The X-Files’, ‘The Outer Limits’ and ‘Tek Wars’. Cubitt was very attracted to the role of Theo but also to how these three characters connected and evolved. Cubitt remarked, “It’s a very human story,|a truly emotional journey. This film is all about evolution. It is constant hard work but I get rewardedwith moments of truth all over the place. And this happens because the film is well written, well constructed and well conceived.”

The impressive Chandra West portrays the career-driven Sarah whose dedication to the medical profession places other concerns at first on the backburner, but after giving Theo another chance, she blossoms forth as a deeply caring fellow human being. West’s other screen credits include THE SALTON SEA with Vincent D’Onofrio, SOMETHING MORE (1999) with Jennifer Beals, and TRUE CONFECTIONS (made for television in 1999) directed by Gail Singer. Her portrayal of Sarah filled with strength and vulnerability at the same time, West held her own next to Feore and Cubitt. “I don’t think it is a typical portrayal of a relationship in a film. It’s definitely complicated and remain’s realistic—theway things are in life.” Of the story itself West noted, “One thing I really like about the script is that it was so small and intimate, focusing basically on just the three people. It’s really nice that way.”

In a related note both Cubitt and Feore were nominated for Genie Awards this year but lost as critics’ votes for one canceled out votes for the other.

Director/Writer Leonard Farlinger makes an impressive feature film debut here and has several projects now in development. The talented young graduate of the Canadian Film Centre has an impressive history of work in short films for which he has been honored with various awards. Of his own experience in bringing this personal story to the screen he noted, “THE PERFECT SON is a film about connecting. How people connect and how family is inescapable. It also shows how an older brother inspires his younger brother to believe life is worth living.” He added, “In THE PERFECT SON I wanted to depict the challenges of accepting another person. That you have to find those points of connection, or you have to rebuild them, or you have to ignore the disconnection of those terrible family spirals.”

Producer Jennifer Jonas (wife of Leonard Farlinger) enjoys a varied background in the Canadian film & television industries with such efforts as THE LIFE BEFORE THIS (1999) with Stephen Rea, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER(1999) with Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd and LE VIOLON ROUGE (THE RED VIOLIN) (1998) starring Samuel L. Jackson and Greta Scacchi. Of Farlinger’s script she remembered “The voyage of a script to a film is always a funny thing. Leonard worked on different drafts of the script. Once we got to the stage where it was ready, it was clear to me that what he was refining in script form, he was absolutely burning to bring out into the world in a three dimensional way.”

The masterful lensing by Barry Stone is noteworthy, with superb time-lapse visuals and crisp images of the city of Toronto where PERFECT SON was filmed. Stone has over twenty-five years of experience in theatre, film and television. This ‘man of all trades’ has worn the hats of producer, director, writer, composer, actor and editor in addition to being a splendid cinematographer. His extensive credits in numerous documentaries garnered him two coveted C.S.C. Awards.

Who is the perfect son? “I think that one of the great advantages to the script is Leonard placing enough ambiguity that your idea of who the perfect son is, or what the perfect son is, vacillates. It’s just a lot grayer. We don’t have the black and white emotions one usually gets in movies. We have many more shades of gray, which I think is much more revealing of peoples’ real lives” stated Feore.

THE PERFECT SON is eloquent and elegant, an elegiac work of art, and deserves to be seen for its great beauty.


Credits:
Producer: Jennifer Jonas.
Director/Writer: Leonard Farlinger.
Co-Producer: Tony Johnston.
Casting: John Comerford, CSC & Claudia Smith. Location Sound Mixer: Stuart French.
Supervising Sound Editor: David McCallum.
Cinematographer: Barry Stone,
CSC. Line Producer: Allan Levine.
Editor: Glenn Berman.
Art Director: Graeme Morphy.
Music: Ron Sures. Costumes: Linda Muir.

Cast:
Theo (David Cubitt),
Ryan (Colm Feore),
Sarah (Chandra West)

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