Director Shane Belfourt’s Red Rover is a mixed bag. Listed on IMDb as a comedy/romance, it is deeply depressing for a comedy. It’s also very light on romance for a courtship. Having written that, the film occasionally does have moments that are genuinely funny, sweet, and transcendent.
Damon (Kristian Bruun), a schlubby Toronto geologist recently fired from his job. He’s living in the basement apartment of his ex girlfriend Beatrice’s (Meghan Heffern) house. He decides to apply for a reality TV show. One that will also create the first – and only one way – human mission to colonize Mars.
Damon spends his free time searching for metal on his local beach. It’s a concept that does get paid off by the end of the film). He meets Phoebe (Cara Gee). She’s the definition of a manic pixie dream girl – dressed in an astronaut’s uniform. She encourages him to go all in on his application for the Mars mission. An unlikely friendship and eventually romance ensues.
Overall, I did not like the Damon character, perhaps because he reminded me of my own worst facets. That isn’t to say that I didn’t empathize with him, I did. But the film doubles down on his pathetic nature. And while occasionally it works, it’s often frustrating and a little over the top. Phoebe is a fascinating character bolstered by a strong performance from Gee. Her quirks are endearing and her motivations are curious.
Beatrice’s new boyfriend Mark (Morgan David Jones) frustrated me considerably. He is excessively slimy and he doesn’t come across as a real person. Rather, he’s an antagonist that is just out to get Damon for reasons that are never quite made clear. Having written that, Jones plays the role effectively. He makes me genuinely hate him, and he’s clearly having fun chewing the scenery. Heffern’s Beatrice feels like the most realistic character in the film. She’s a regular person trying to navigate the ongoing platonic relationship with her ex, Damon.
The movie is very much about a man who is lost in his current situation. And he is looking for a way out. In this case, for a literal excursion away from Earth. While the film never moves off of our pale blue dot, it frequently references Damon’s need for something new, which we then extrapolate may not be a literal adventure, but the adventure of a relationship with Phoebe.
Red Rover’s score by composer Anthony William Wallace was one element of the film that really stuck out to me. It is used sparingly, but effectively. It creates its themes and melodies based around the bleeps and bloops of a space capsule. Or, at the very least what someone like Damon would imagine a space capsule to sound like. It’s a nice touch indeed.
Red Rover certainly has some upsides with a couple of strong performances and an emotional underpinning filled with heart. Unfortunately, many of the film’s characters feel more like caricatures. And many of the story beats come across as rather forced.