Writer/director Geordie Sabbagh’s film Canadian Strain is centred on Anne Banting (Jess Salgueiro), a marijuana dealer whose career and livelihood are destroyed when the Canadian government legalizes cannabis, making it impossible for her to compete with the legal marijuana sellers. After being evicted from her apartment, Anne struggles to find gainful employment, legal and illegal alike.
The film is listed on IMDb as a comedy, and I believe this does a disservice to the movie. While there is some comedy in the film (the character portrayed by Naomi Snieckus exists entirely for comedic effect), it really is more of a drama. After watching the trailer, I was under the impression that it would be more like a Canadian Broad City. I feel like I would have appreciated the film more if the marketing had a tone closer to the movie’s itself.
Indeed, Canadian Strain is at it strongest when it isn’t trying to be funny and is simply being honest and emotional. Salgueiro gives a very solid, nuanced performance, and carries the movie on her shoulders. Hannah Spear as Anne’s best friend Beth is also quite good in the film. And the two of them have wonderful chemistry throughout the good times and the bad. Canadian mascot Colin Mochrie plays a small, yet pivotal role. And that subplot was probably where the movie was at its sweetest and most touching.
And this a quintessentially Canadian movie. I always find it frustrating when films try to hide the fact that they’re Canadian. Here, characters use our colourful and plastic banknotes, they discuss going to Timmie’s. They fawn over how gorgeous they find Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And we frequently see news footage of him talking about the cannabis legalization. I did appreciate that the movie revelled in its Canadiana.
The biggest issue I found myself having with the film was its pacing. It has a scant run time of only an hour and 19 minutes, but it feels considerably longer. I believe much of this is down to the fact that the movie isn’t the comedy it looked to be. The entire first act really dragged as I waited for jokes that weren’t coming. Once I recognized that it was in fact more of a drama rather than a comedy with very few jokes, the pace picked up somewhat for me.
Canadian Strain is worth watching, particularly now as we hunker down and stay inside. It has a couple decent laughs, some solid performances, and a heartfelt undercurrent running through it that keeps it alive. Still, if you go into it hoping for Half Baked 2, you will certainly be disappointed.