Everyday events in the lives of an Argentinian girl and a Chinese boy may sound like a meager premise for a movie, but in the refreshingly uncomplicated if often frustratingly slow “Canada,” it works. Using minimal scripting, nonpro thesps and a straightforward shooting style, prolific Argentinean helmer Raul Perrone reprises the hallmarks of his recent work to evocative effect. However, both theme and treatment are too idiosyncratic to appeal beyond director’s small band of unconditional admirers.
Like Perrone’s “A Summer Afternoon,” the film features Argentinean and Asian protags. Twentysomethings Jaki (Jacqueline Cordero) and her b.f., Huang (Heber Huang), a warehouse worker, are picnicking in a wood. Jaki wonders whether Huang is really planning to move to Canada, where his sister lives; he replies that he doesn’t know. The subject is then dropped until the end of the movie.
Later, they play with a kitten they find in a tree. The kitten escapes and they look for it, but when an unexplained shot rings out, they hurry out of the wood.
After a transition scene with the couple on bikes, to the sound of a pleasant pop song, they go to a hospital, where Huang will undergo tests for a problem with his back. Fearful that he’ll leave, Jaki is always attentive to Huang’s needs.
Pic seems to deal with issues such as innocence vs. experience, and the ability to handle pain, whether emotional or physical. But there’s nothing schematic about its construction: The camera simply rolls, sometimes fixed for minutes at a time, sometimes following the protags and sometimes absorbing a scene that has nothing to do with anything seen before or after.
Central relationship is well-played — or rather, well-directed, as both thesps are amateurs. They speak little, partly because Huang’s Spanish is far from perfect, but expression and gesture suggest the strength of the bond between them. Jaki comes across as a deceptively simple heroine: Refusing to face the fact that Huang may leave, she prefers simply to carry on, finding meaning in protecting someone in an alien environment.
Oh-so-long takes work better in pic’s early stages, when the couple’s relationship is being established. Ethereal electronic music is used sparingly but effectively.