Released to festivals in 2008, and in limited showings across Canada in 2009, One Week was written and directed by Michael McGowan. It’s one of those inspiring movies meant to teach you to seize the day and live life on your own terms and whatnot. This is not normally the type of thing I go for. But there is one sure-fire way to get me to watch an inspiring soul-searching road movie…
Make it Canadian.
One Week stars Joshua Jackson as Ben Tyler. It opens with Ben in his doctor’s office. Ben’s told he’s got Stage IV cancer, and even with treatment… he’s probably done. On his way home, Ben sees a motorcycle being sold by the guy from Beachcombers. As he rolls up his Tim Horton’s Coffee Rim, it tells him to “Go west, young man”. He tells his fiancée (Liane Balaban) he’s doing just that, bails on treatment and heads out looking for an adventure.
This movie showed up on my radar on one of my last trips in to an open, still movie-renting Blockbuster Video. The trailer for this movie was playing. For an Indie movie, they made a fantastically marketable trailer. Choosing not to play on the inspiring journey angle too hard, the trailer focused more on the scenic Canadian landscape, and the humour. It seemed like exactly the kind of movie I’d be interested in watching if I wasn’t looking for a movie where stuff blew up every five minutes. As it happened that day, I wanted to watch stuff blow up. I didn’t really give much thought to it after that, until I saw it was going to be on TV, and missed it. So when it showed up on Netflix’s streaming service last month, I fired it up.
First and foremost… this film is fucking beautiful. One Week is clearly meant to inspire, not only with a cookie cutter quantity-vs-quality-of-life storyline, but with its showcasing of the majestic as fuck Canadian landscape. I know Canada’s got some gorgeous scenery, but the location scouts really did a great job of also finding all those little roadside attractions that you likely wouldn’t find on the main Trans-Canada Highway. Of course, they also hit the obvious points, like the Thunder Bay Memorial for Terry Fox.
If I had a complaint about the locations, though, it’s that they should have made Ben hail from Halifax, so that they could cover the country coast-to-coast. If you’re going to make a film that’s basically a love letter to the Canadian countryside… it really perpetuates the idea of the Upper Canadian Superiority Complex to not include anything east of Toronto. It’s a flaw I think they decided to tackle with the soundtrack. There seemed to me to be a noticeable amount of (what I believed to be) East Coast music. Halifax native Joel Plaskett even appears as a Toronto busker at one point in the film.
The humour in the movie is decent. Most of it comes from the movie’s omniscient Narrator, who lets us in on all sorts of little details in the lives of the people that have impacted, or been impacted by, Ben’s life. These sequences usually involved editing together some quick cuts, and aided the pacing problems any movie that focuses on long scenery-loving shots faces.
One Week is an oddball movie. I can’t, on good conscience, recommend it to anyone else. I really enjoyed it, but I can’t imagine anyone else liking it. What a hipster thing to say. “This movie’s so Indie…. you probably wouldn’t like it.” I feel dirty.
Seriously, though, it’s slow paced, and Ben’s actions don’t really make a lot of sense. I can understand the idea of a spontaneous fuck-off when you find out you’re 90% certain to die of cancer in a couple months, but I can’t understand why he’s not able to explain to his family why it’s important to him. Also, if you’re not impressed by scenery… you’ll definitely want to skip this. Without being able to take in the countryside, this movie would just be a slow paced, moderately funny montage of shots of a guy on a motorcycle… like a more polite Easy Rider with less desert and more forest.
Despite all that, I enjoyed it. Easily