Joyce Wong’s first feature introduces us to 19 year-old Betty (Reid Asselstine), a late-night security guard at a dead-end strip mall. A typical ‘day’ includes spending break time with her co-workers Rich (Francis Melling) and Anton (Mirko Mil). Breaks involve hanging out in Rich’s car smoking up, while he watches porn on his cell phone. Rich and Anton often make crude jokes about sex and women around Betty — to which she only shrugs or sort of, kind of laugh at the jokes. While working at Wexford Plaza, she meets Danny (Darrel Gamotin) — a bartender at one of the plaza’s bars. Outside of work, Betty’s life seems rather dull. She does not spend much time with any of her friends nor her family. Her off-work time is spent watching TV, online, or on her phone looking at dating apps. It is clear she is unhappy, lonely, and looking to find a connection with someone. The first half of the film is devoted to Betty’s story or more accurately, how the story unfolds from her perspective.
The film’s second half focuses on Danny’s everyday happenings. He is 31 years-old; working as a bartender at a bar that is about to close. He lives with his girlfriend Celine (Ellie Posadas), who dreams of moving to a bigger, nicer apartment. Danny has financial struggles that pose a threat to their future plans. When he loses his job, he neglects to tell Celine. While he tries to ‘get his act together’, there is a series of events that unravel which put this relationship at peril. Danny’s life is not what it appears to be at first glance.
What happens in midst of Danny’s and Betty’s mundane existence is what Wong labels an “unexpected sexual encounter. Although Betty and Danny are well meaning in their intentions, their behavior ends up causing both of them pain.
Asselstine and Gamotin both excel in creating sympathetic characters. Melling, Mil, and Posadas do well as secondary characters. The elements of humour are not only dark but also create a sense of uneasiness. Along with the interactions, or lack thereof with other social circles, the characters are believable as being living in these post-internet times.
Wexford Plaza is a place where meaningless jobs, loneliness, and the ambivalence of everyday life take place. Wong’s story and direction work effectively in creating the atmosphere of uncertainty. Along with Maya Bankovic’s cinematography, the film is well-rounded in its use of locations to enhance the mood of the film. The strip mall and the Scarborough settings complement the film well. The film’s split structure is effective but not entirely fulfilling. There is plenty left out of the main characters’ stories, but perhaps that is the point. The film is after all about moments in these characters’ lives. It is a snippet of everyday life, and how our perceptions and understanding can be limited or hindered by the information or lack thereof we have at any given time.
Wexford Plaza opens in Toronto on Friday, December 1, 2017 at the Carlton Cinema. Check listings for showtimes and box office information.
- Release Date: 12/1/2017