Getting lost in a labour of love
Romance story unfolds naturally in beautiful B.C.
Lovers in a Dangerous Time begins and ends the same way. We see off-the-cuff scenes of two preschoolers — presumably a flashback to the childhoods of the two “lovers” in the film — playing in an isolated orchard, their imaginations in overdrive. The shots are undeniably beautiful, snapshots of innocence that unfold so naturally that it’s hard to imagine they were scripted.
Both stylistically and thematically, they are appropriate bookends to Lovers in a Dangerous Time, a wonderfully subtle love story that manages to wrestle grand themes of lost potential, jealousy, true love and the hard road to adulthood into a charming and low-key tale about childhood friends reuniting in Creston, B.C.
Co-written, directed and produced by actors and real-life couple May Charters and Mark Hug, the film apparently took six long years to shoot. But what will make Lovers such a worthwhile experience for cinema buffs is how naturally it unfolds. It seems effortless. From the charming Canuck dialogue to the gorgeously shot scenery to the documentary, fly-on-the-wall feel of many of the scenes, this is not a story that deals in grand gestures or melodrama. To even call the two leads “lovers” seems a bit too dramatic.
Hug, a former University of Calgary student and one-time male model, plays a drifting young man who works his family’s orchard and hangs around with many of the same people he went to high school with. Todd had wanted to become a big NHL star, but things didn’t work out. Those dreams were, however, realized by his younger brother Bobby (nicely played by Mark Wiebe), who signs a multi-million dollar contract with the Boston Bruins and has a well-intentioned if off-putting habit of clumsily spreading his wealth when he returns home.
At Todd’s 10th-year high school reunion, he meets up with Allison (Charters), who he grew up with and had a short romantic fling with in high school. They had lost touch after she left for the big city to become an illustrator for a children’s author. After she is fired, she returns home struggling with feelings of both nostalgia and failure.
Yes, on the surface, this does not seem like a particularly cheery tale. But, as with the best low-budget indie films, it thrives on offering what Hollywood movies don’t or can’t.
Allison and Todd’s awkward reunion and cautious steps toward romance is never overplayed as it would have been in a romantic comedy. Similarly, the simmering jealously between Todd and Bobby only comes to a head in a few funny, and somewhat scary, scenes of sibling rivalry, including one unsettling, but darkly comic episode around a campfire. It’s as harrowing as this film will ever get. But that’s not the point.
This is a movie about real life and the thorny inconsistencies of real-life relationships, be they family or romantic. The final scenes are both bittersweet and haunting, the polar opposite of a Hollywood ending. Loose ends are left dangling, regrets and ambitions are never completely reconciled. It’s a reminder that reality rarely offers those comfortable certainties found in Hollywood films. Lovers in A Dangerous Time has a limited run in Calgary. Catch it while you can.