The Drawer Boy is just as much of a seminal artistic touchstone in Canadian theatre as the Group of Seven is to art, or The Tragically Hip is to music.
The 1999 stage play by Michael Healy about the transformative power of art, storytelling, and fiction is adapted to the screen here by co-directors Arturo Perez Torres and Aviva Armour-Ostroff, who do a fantastic job capturing the scope of the countryside, creating very authentic, lush performances by the three leads, while adding some Lynchian-esque visuals in specific moments.
Miles (Jakob Ehman), an actor from Toronto travels to the country to gain insight into rural and farming life for a play, and takes residence with aging bachelor farmers Morgan (Richard Clarkin, who’s also in another Canadian Film Fest selection Ordinary Days) and Angus (Stuart Hughes). Miles strikes a chord with Angus, who suffers memory loss from brain damage sustained in the second world war, and constantly has to reintroduce himself. One night, Miles overhears Morgan retelling to Angus the story of their friendship, the women they loved and how they came to live in Canada. Appropriating the story for his play, Miles performance reawakens Angus’ memory, much to the disdain of Morgan, which leads to a rift between Miles and the two farmer friends.
Ehman performs with the perfect balance of naiveté and earnestness, while Clarkin and Hughes deliver some of the best on-screen chemistry I’ve seen in quite some time.
This is one of the best well-acted, and harrowingly dramatic films at this year’s Canadian Film Festival, and should not be missed.