So last night I went out to see The Trotsky with some friends at the Scotiabank here in downtown Toronto and right off the bat I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to enter a theatre already over half-full.
One that was almost entirely filled by the time the lights went down.
Folks, this is what happens when you take time to promote a film properly: people show up.
Crazy idea, I know... but it works.
The Trotsky, while not exactly a barn-burner at first glance -- the title holds the painful duty of saying everything and nothing about the film -- turns out to be a Comedy that's not only funny (?!) but charming (and even a touch stirring) in the very best sense of the word.
As you may or may not know by now, the plot revolves around Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) a seventeen-year-old kid who believes that 1) he's the reincarnation of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and 2) he needs to re-live that former life to a T -- from marrying an "older" woman named Alexandra all the way down to his exile and untimely icepick assassination (hopefully while visiting someplace warm).
Luckily for our hero many of those things are far beyond the scope of this film, which is good because Leon's far too busy worrying about other things.
You see, after a (hilarious) failed attempt to unionize his father's shipping company young Leon finds himself a revolutionary in search of a revolution -- but not for long. Soon he's been shunted off to public school where he's only too delighted to rise up and confront the 'Fascist' principal who rules his students with an iron fist.
Colm Feore and Domini Blythe bathe in their roles here as Principal Berkhoff and Mrs. Davis (his faithful minion); acting as hard-nosed foils for our lead and making him infinitely more likable in every scene they're in. There's not much for them to do but provide a cold authoritarian grip for Leon to wrestle but what's there is played with gusto and panache. (Mr. Feore even gets a great lil' speech about the 'apathy' of youth).
What really elevates this film, however, is the relationships that surround our hero.
Emily Hampshire nails the landing as Leon's love-interest Alexandra Leith, masterfully blending revulsion and intrigue as the "older woman" Leon believes he's "destined" to marry. Together they share some of the funniest scenes in the film as he tirelessly works to wear down her defenses.
His family is, of course, modernly dysfunctional -- right down to the issues with his father David (Saul Rubinek). Thankfully the love and support from his mother Anne (Anne-Marie Cadieux) and sister Sarah (Tommie-Amber Pirie) is never in question and offers a nice beating heart behind it all.
That said, the chemistry between his would-be revolutionary cohorts is palpable and exciting to behold. Tiio Horn and Ricky Mabe are excellent as Caroline and Tony, bored student union reps slowly awakening to the power they wield thanks to Leon's urgings.
Yes, there's definitely a lot going on here but it all manages to come together thanks to the skillful guiding hand of writer/director Jacob Tierney. Each of his characters have been given their moments to shine and while this is obviously Mr. Baruchel's film, it never seems like a one-man show.
It's not all wine and roses however, and if there are any complaints to be made it'd be that I found the movie does seem to drag a tad in the 3rd act and the wrap up takes a bit longer than I'd like... but really these are small things in the grand scheme of it all.
The Trotsky is the kind of film I wish I'd seen when I was 17 or 18 and still full of that post-pubescent piss and vinegar.
To me, it's a film about self-empowerment; getting off your butt to make the changes you want to see instead of waiting for them to be given to you. It's about drive and passion and standing up for what you believe in, even if it means you're standing alone.
That it manages to share this message while keeping us laughing and without bashing us over the head or resorting to histrionics is a true credit to Mr. Tierney and his team.
In the end, a large part of this movie rests on a simple question: "Apathy or Boredom"?... and as I sat there watching the credits roll I couldn't help but find myself putting this question to a larger focus, more specifically: the Canadian (non) 'response' our film industry in general.
Is it that we truly, as a people, just don't care to see Canadian films? Or are we waiting to be wakened from a slumber?
There, surrounded by the crowd, laughing with strangers in the dark, I came to realize a simple fact:
It's definitely not apathy.
The Trotsky is a film that's worth your time and every cent of your money.
You can find show times in your area over here.
Go see this flick in the theater, with a crowd, while you can.