LOVE LETTER TO A TIME OF LIFE
Sleeping Giant a shimmering tribute to youthful summer days gone by
Andrew Cividino wanted to set this deceptively simple comingof-age tale in the 1990s, both as a paean to his own youthful summers spent in northern Ontario and as “a love letter to the last generation that grew up without constant technology.”
The budget wouldn’t allow it — the film ran out of money once and was made as a short film before being reshot as a 90-minute feature — but the finished product still feels remarkably timeless. Three boys — two locals and one from away — spend a summer goofing around and growing up on the shores of Lake Superior. (The film’s title refers to a prominent rock formation at Thunder Bay, Ont.)
Jackson Martin stars as Adam, whose boring summer at a cottage with his parents gets a shot of adrenalin when he befriends rambunctious cousins Riley and Nate, played by actual cousins and assured first-time actors Reece Moffett and Nick Serino. (That’s their real grandmother in the film, too — you can’t make this stuff up!)
The boys test themselves by cliff-diving (actually cliff-jump- ing), working their way up to Todd’s Cliff, named after the first guy stupid enough to make the leap. And as Adam starts noticing local girl Taylor, his I’m-down-with-the-kids dad embarks on his own romantic escapade, which threatens to blow up the summer real good.
Cividino exhibits a flawless grasp of the rhythms and rites of adolescence, and made sure the soundscape, from the lap of waves to the local birdsongs, were a perfect match. James Klopko steps up with cinematography so perfect you can almost feel the heat shimmering off the screen. And Chris Thornborrow and the band Bruce Peninsula deliver a raucous soundtrack.
The result is indeed a love letter to a time of life and a place in the north. Small wonder Sleeping Giant was warmly received at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, won the best Canadian first feature at the Toronto festival and was a runner-up for the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for best Canadian film of 2015.
But with summer around the corner, there’s no better time and place to watch it than here and now.