John Delahunt, Mike Thorn, Cody Field, Karen Lewin
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
"You have to be out in the world a while before you realize it's not the place you want to be."
Who are you? What do you want to do with your life?
Doesn't it seem like we all go through this journey somewhere between those godawful confusing adolescent years and those even more godawful confusing young adult years?
We graduate from high school, we go to college or we don't. Sometimes, we drift. Sometimes, we work. Sometimes, we drink. Heavily. Sometimes, we become parents and our life plans are put on hold. Forever. Sometimes, we never figure out who we are or what we want to do with our lives and so we go through the motions until, hopefully, we find something or someone worth clinging to. Then, somewhere down the road, we let go and start the cycle all over again.
Sounds dreadful, eh?
Sounds like life.
"Generation Why," written and directed by Canadian guerilla filmmaker Brendan Prost, follows a group of disenfranchised recent high school grads as they try to figure out who they are and what they want to do with themselves. In the process, they start a campaign of apathy and detachment among their Calgary counterparts. Suddenly, what began as an effort to find themselves becomes a crippling blow to area retailers, restaurants and even academic institutions. It's only when a tragic accident strikes that everything begins to slowly return back to normal.
But, are the lessons really learned? Or is the cycle doomed to repeat itself?
While there are undeniable challenges resulting from the film's modest budget, a film such as "Generation Why" should be filmed guerilla style, an indication of the film's budget being built out of a life savings and constructed utilizing whatever equipment and services were donated and/or inexpensively obtained. "Generation Why" feels like an old school 70's vinyl record that you sit around listening to with your friends late at night in your bedroom.
Remember how everyone went all googly-eyed when acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh took his million dollar budget and hired completely inexperienced actors to make "Bubble?" This is exactly what guerilla and indie filmmakers are doing everyday on budgets far below a seven digit flick. In fact, if the U.S. hadn't just experienced the box-office miracle of "Paranormal Activity," a $15,000 film, becoming the biggest box-office success ever in terms of pure profit in the United States, it would be hard to imagine a film such as "Generation Why," a film put together for approximately $7,000.
It all starts with a decent script, and Prost has put together a script that will undoubtedly resonate with twentysomethings stumbling around in a daze of uncertainty even if the path has already been defined. Prost nicely blends dry, witty humor with light drama and rather serious social insights into a heartfelt, intelligent story devoid of unnecessary dialogue or distracting special effects.
"Generation Why" largely centers around a core three individuals, John (John Delahunt), Mike (Mike Thorn) and Cody (Cody Field), the three young men whose disenchantment largely starts the wave of apathy among the young adults in Calgary. While these three individuals may largely be the trigger for the way this story unfolds, Prost wisely creates a communal feeling in the film that greatly enhances the idea that this wave of disenfranchisement has truly impacted the entire community.
While Prost utilizes a largely novice cast, he's cast his film solidly with the leading trio having a nice chemistry and being convincing in their dilemma once they realize that their exercise in self-improvement has gone awry. Among the supporting players, Karen Lewin offers a particularly winning performance as Samantha, while Gerry Prost and Chris Patrick Carolan are also strong in supporting roles.
Original music from Our Hearts Are Big is stellar and nicely complements the film's goings on, while Prost's cinematography is surprisingly strong given the film's limited financing. It should be acknowledged, however, that those unaccustomed to guerilla filmmaking will need to adjust to the occasional lighting issues, especially when Prost filmed with the sun directly in the background. Additionally, a few sound mix issues are inevitable in low-budget films and "Generation Why" is no exception. As should be expected from any film featuring largely novice actors, some of the acting is a touch hit-and-miss as occasionally dramatic lines are over-emphasized and there were a few scenes that felt unnecessarily posed for dramatic impact.
Modest quibbles aside, "Generation Why" is a solid example of low-budget, guerilla filmmaking with a strong script from Brendan Prost and a cast and crew who clearly get what Prost is trying to accomplish with the film. "Generation Why" should enjoy a healthy life on the underground film festival circuit. For more information on "Generation Why," visit the film's website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic