By Jim Slotek
A tad dark for Disney, but still warm-hearted and mild enough for family fare, the problematically-titled Considering Love And Other Magic is a Canadian “ghost story” with a certain amount of charm.
Half high-school drama and half haunted-house tale, the movie by Calgary filmmaker Dave Schultz (Jet Boy, 45 RPM) is the redemptive tale of a traumatized teen girl named Jessie (Maddie Phillips), whose 12-year-old brother recently committed suicide, leaving the family in walking-coma mode.
Her few friends are tiring of trying to break her funk, and even the surprise attention of a long-crushed-upon hunk (Rory J. Saper) can’t cut through the clouds.
And then, almost on a listless whim, Jessie accepts an after-school job tutoring a home-schooled boy in math. It all happens at the home of a famous author, Veronica Guest (Sheila McCarthy), whose best days are a half-century behind her.
And then it gets weird(ish). The boy, Tommy, (Ryan Grantham) uses a math text from the ‘40s and dresses like a character from a first-edition Hardy Boys novel. He almost immediately owns up to being a fictional character brought to life by Veronica in the ‘50s (and ostensibly confined to the house by the constraints of reality ever since).
And Tommy, it seems, is not the only made-up character made flesh in Veronica’s house. There’s also (visible to him and Veronica only) Jasper (Eric McCormack), a suave and arrogant detective of international renown who figures in a series of the author’s books. Not a natural fit for the former Will & Grace star, he nonetheless throws himself into the mid-Atlantic accent and debonair touch with brandy snifters and billiards.
Tommy’s crush on his new tutor throws a wrench into these long-standing ephemeral relationships. He and Jessie have picnics in long-ignored corners of the house. She begins to feel needed and protective of the “lost boy.”
In the outside world, she shares her outlandish story with friends who are actually supportive (and begins to open up to the attentions of her longtime crush, who turns out to be sensitive and understanding). For someone flirting with goth, Jessie seems to attend a fairly well-adjusted high school. This isn’t a John Hughes affair with bullies and torment, but the kind of supportive secondary we’d all have loved to attend.
Doesn’t make for the best drama, though. Considering Love And Other Magic works best in Tommy, Jasper and Veronica’s claustrophobic indoor kingdom. McCarthy, McCormack and Grantham are all utterly convincing playing living, breathing anachronisms – a selling job that becomes important when the outside world enters the narrative.
Schultz seems to specialize in the coming-of-age story with oblique turns (his previous movies have centred on street kids and teen vampires). And Considering Love And Other Magic is certainly that, taking the protagonist from hurting to healing while throwing a little hocus pocus at us along the way.