Andrew Cividino’s assured debut Sleeping Giant — the opening film at this year’s Cannes’ Critics Week — captures the beauty of cottage country Ontario without ever quite transcending the often stilted performances of its non-actors. The film follows Adam (Jackson Martin) who is up north with his family for the summer where he meets two trouble-making cousins, Riley (Reece Moffatt) and Nate (Nick Serino) who lack the privilege and education Adam enjoys. This sometimes makes it hard for them to connect with Adam, and it also makes them seem exotic to him. Riley is the more amicable of the two, and he easily befriends Adam, which makes his cousin Nate jealous. When Riley starts dating Adam’s childhood friend and then sees Adam’s father in a compromising position, Nate and Adam end up in a fight over Riley’s attention with dangerous consequences.
The film is rife with homoerotic tension, and there’s a real sense of foreboding: The boys are too young to really understand the implications of their daredevil games. Cividino creates some glorious montages of the landscapes set to a percussion-heavy score. Ultimately, though, the boys’ sometimes indecipherable trash talk and Cividino’s too often aimless shaky camera don’t quite add up. It’s a film grounded in place that never quite finds its footing in plot. Nevertheless, it does announce an exciting new Canadian talent behind the camera. I look forward to seeing what he does next.
‘Sleeping Giant’ screens Tues. Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. at Elgin/Winter Garden Theatres and Thurs. Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets and details can be found here.