A few years ago I was perusing the cinematic selections at the former Sydney Video on the corner of Charlotte and Townsend. It was a great video store. Why, they could tell everyone with a membership exactly how much they had spent renting movies going back 20 years! It was a bit of an institution which, alas, has become a DIY spa (I still don’t understand what that is).
Anyway, as I scanned the titles I came across a movie called Growing Op (2008), a dramatic comedy about a teenage boy coming of age in a suburban marijuana-growing operation. It starred Steven Yaffe, Jon Cor, Wallace Langham, and Rosanna Arquette, plus a host of regional actors including Daniel MacIvor, Hugh Thompson and Bill Carr. What really struck me about seeing this title on the shelf at Sydney Video that the filmmaker was Michael Melski. I thought to myself as I paid off my late fees, “this has got to be the only movie in here where the filmmaker is a Sydney Video member!” I enjoyed Growing Op, and I was proud that Melski was able to navigate the complex maze of getting a feature film to the screen.
Fast-forward to September 2011, I am sitting in the Oxford Theatre in Halifax awaiting the premiere of Melski’s new movie, Charlie Zone. The well-heeled crowd are all part of the Atlantic Film Festival, and before the screening Melski took the stage and thanked cast and crew, and tried to prepare the audience for what they were about to see on the big screen.
Charlie Zone is a dramatic thriller filled with suspense, violence and ultimately, redemption. It portrays lives and lifestyles that exist on the fringes of our society. Set in Halifax, it deals with subject matter that in recent years has become part of the nightly news narrative of the provincial capital. It is a small city with big city problems, and Charlie Zone confronts these violent realities without apologies.
The cast is exceptional. Glen Gould (Avery) delivers an award-winning performance establishing his versatility as a dramatic lead. Gould is originally from Membertou and makes his home in Toronto where he is a busy actor and performer. Amanda Crew (Jan) blends vulnerability with last-chance courage in this challenging lead role. The supporting cast is strong and features many familiar names including Jennie Raymond (MacDonald), who many will remember from her time as Nellie MacLean on The Pit Pony.
This is a movie well-worth seeing. I don’t say that in the “support your local filmmaker/actor/artist sense” because frankly, I am getting tired of that argument to get people off the couch. Supporting local artists is a wonderful concept if the art is worthy of the support. In this case, it surely is. Charlie Zone is a mature film, with mature themes and grown-up language, so probably not the best choice for a play-date. But for the moviegoer who craves the experience of being abducted by a story only to be released as the credits role, this film is for you!!
Charlie Zone opens on March 1st in Sydney, Halifax and Toronto. Showtimes in Sydney on Friday night are 7:30pm and 10pm at Empire Studio 10. The film continues through the week.