By Jim Slotek
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” is an actual line used at a funeral in Sorry for Your Loss, a darkly humourous, mid-life crisis Canadian movie. And it is, in fact, the film’s entire theme.
Ken (Justin Bartha) is a new dad who’s pointedly disinterested in his infant son (who hasn’t even been named as the movie begins). His lack of enthusiasm at work is betrayed by his occasional sad glimpses of his dream gastropub project he keeps on his hard-drive.
And his wife, Lori (Inbar Lavi) asks him point blank, “Are you dead inside?” when he ponders not traveling to his father’s funeral in what appears to be Winnipeg (though they use American money for some reason).
Bowing to the inevitable, Ken heads to the ‘Peg, where we get to know the dysfunctional family that made the man. Ken hadn’t seen his late dad for five years. His mother (Lolita Davidovich) feigns maternal love, but can’t find a hole in her schedule to meet her unnamed grandson.
Meanwhile, his dad’s erstwhile best friends Jeff (Bruce Greenwood) and Vince (Kids In The Hall’s Kevin McDonald have only an ankle-deep affection for the not-so-dearly departed. They’re golf course rats, of the overaged frat-boy variety. They’re not exactly living the dream either, but aren’t tied up in knots about it like Ken so long as they have a highball in hand.
The McGuffin in the story is Ken’s dad’s will, which stipulates Ken will only inherit his dad’s estate if he dumps the ashes in the middle of Investor’s Field (an actual Winnipeg sports facility, as is the Niakwa golf course, where I played years ago with my dad when he was alive).
That’s the antic part of the plot, and its resolution seems counterintuitive in the face of a similar but much easier strategy, but that’s all I’ll say about that.
It’s not surprising that writer-director Collin Friesen is a sometime story editor on CBC’s Schitt’s Creek (a show I love), with so many characters who are basically the sum of their neuroses. The difference between a TV series and a film, of course, is that you can develop a person’s character over the course of seasons.
In Sorry for Your Loss, a pretty sizable character transformation must happen in the course of 90 minutes. A Christmas Carol notwithstanding, It’s hard to imagine any single experience, no matter how transformative, that can turn you from someone who is “dead inside” to someone who stops and smells the roses. It’s pure expediency, and a bit of a character cheat, rendering the ending unsatisfying and too neat.
That said, Sorry for Your Loss is an entertaining, banter-filled take on the straight-line from our parents to ourselves, one that grows on you after viewing.
Sorry for Your Loss. Written and directed by Collin Friesen. Starring Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood, Lolita Davidovich. Opens Friday, May 31 in Toronto at the Carlton Cinema and June 10 in Winnipeg at the Landmark Cinemas Towne Cinema 8.