By Jim Slotek
As the awkwardly segmented Canadian film Ordinary Days begins, it seems like a Seven Stages of Concern movie for parents of missing offspring.
We see athletic collegian Cara Cook (Jacqueline Byers) jogging, and then entering her car, startled at a guy who’s just kicked a garbage can angrily. She backs up. She hits something. The screen goes black.
We then see Rich and Marie Cook (Richard Clarkin and Torri Higginson) coping in their own way over the fact that their daughter isn’t returning texts or calls. It’s the next day. Dad insists she’s okay, just going offline for a bit, nothing to see here. Mom frets, imagining the worst.
Each is the response of a loving parent, one who refuses to consider the inconceivable, and another with a hair-trigger worry mode.
But just when you start to absorb the nuance of that story, the screen returns to black, and we enter the world of Jonathan Brightbill (Michael Xavier), a cop with substance abuse issues, estranged from Susanna (Kimberly Laferriere), who’s pregnant with his child.
Suddenly, we’re watching what might as well be an episode of a network TV procedural series. Brightbill turns out to be the angry guy who kicked the garbage in front of Cara. And it’s far from the only coincidence of dubious narrative relevance in the movie (Susanna is a college instructor, and Cara is one of her students – how small is this town?). There’s another coincidence which would constitute a spoiler to reveal.
Seeking redemption, Brightbill tracks some in-store video to Ward Anderton (Joris Jarsky), a loner who is already a suspect in two murders of the town’s teenagers. Anderton “just so happens” to be the guy in the video. “An ordinary day has a lot of ‘just-so-happens,’” the pointedly creepy Anderton replies to Brightbill’s observations.
Then we’re in a third movie, one entirely informed by Cara’s experiences. (Think James Franco in 127 Hours.) It’s not a badly performed one-woman third act. But the film, co-directed by Kris Booth, Renuka Jeypatan and Jordan Canning, is an okay idea that doesn’t quite work. The three segments (from three directors), though quite watchable on their own are stylistically and narratively incompatible. And the aforementioned daisy-chain of coincidences just seems like lazy plotting.
A point of minor interest: Mena Massoud, who plays Cara’s sketchy boyfriend Ollie Santos (an initial suspect in her disappearance), is the Egyptian-Canadian actor who’s playing the lead in Disney’s live-action Aladdin. His “street” Latino character is a little overplayed, reminding me of an actor friend of South Asian heritage who’d complain that he kept getting cast as Mexican even though he didn’t speak a word of Spanish.
Ordinary Days. Directed by Kris Booth, Renuka Jeypatan and Jordan Canning. Starring Michael Xavier, Jacqueline Byers and Joris Jarsky. Opens Friday, May 10 in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax.