A Haunting Journey: Our Review of ‘The People Garden’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 12, 2016
A Haunting Journey: Our Review of ‘The People Garden’

“We’ve misplaced Jamie,” a strange man says with less concern than he should have. He goes on to assure our main character in search of him that there is nothing to worry about. It’s a pretty weird interaction.

Our befuddled listener is Sweetpea (Dree Hemingway) , a young woman who is determined to find her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. She has traveled to Japan and made her way of out the city and to the forest where Jamie, a rock star of no particular note, is shooting a music video. She intends to break up with him.

“It’s animal to do it over text,” she explains.

The People Garden, written and directed by Nadia Litz, follows Sweetpea on her quixotic journey filled with first curiosities and absurdities, and later unnerving revelations and chilling realities. That she wants to end a relationship in person instead of say, over phone, text, or simple 21st century ghosting, is just one of the ways Litz comments on social interaction.

It seems Jamie has wandered off on his own volition, leaving behind a crew waiting his return, including a former sex symbol now in her later years (Pamela Anderson), who is starring alongside Jaimi in this video. The crew includes a group of men who speak calmly about otherwise troublesome incidents, and often huddle and whisper when Sweetpea is away.

the people garden

Litz has a knack for turning seemingly innocuous shots into something unsettling, and there is a patience to the pacing and storytelling that is simultaneously calming. One of the first shots has Sweetpea standing on front of a customs agent in Japan, who is wearing a white mask over his mouth, asking a question in the most robotic of voices. Litz, whose previous works include Hotel Congress and Big Muddy, also has a tendency to wonderfully break free of the stereotypical confines and notions of low-budget Canadian films.

We know something in this world is off, we know it’s probably nothing especially pleasant, but The People Garden has a clarion voice and focused idea.

While various moving pieces, including Anderson’s hopeful ominous presence as an aging starlet who knows more than she lets on, and James De Gros as the only really sociable person around (he made the opening comment above), don’t completely line up with the dark mood of the film, there is much more to entice you than there is that might have you question. Sweetpea, focused however impractically so, ventures into uncertainty, with us along side never leaving her point of view. The end result is alarming and fitting.

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