A portrait of the artist as a young wreck, “Down to the Dirt” is an uneven yet flavorful adaptation of Joel Thomas Hynes’ autobiographical novel, with the author playing his own alter ego — an aspiring poet who spends time drinking, drugging, vomiting, vandalizing and being pursued by police in his native rural Newfoundland. Many viewers will find time spent with this hapless screw-up two hours too many, but the pic does at least partly capture the source material’s rambunctious gallows humor. Exposure inside Canada will be limited; outside, scant.
Keith Kavanagh (Hynes) is a smalltown scourge — kicked out by parents, blamed (oft correctly) for everything from trashed cars to arson. He moves with g.f. Natasha (Mylene Savoie) to comparatively bustling St. Johns; fed up, she soon splits for Halifax. Deciding on a surprise visit, he liquors himself into a ruinous state before even reaching her door. Dialogue and narration in the screenplay (oddly not by the author/star) are occasionally flat, but in screen presence and voiceover delivery, Hynes sustains the book’s raffish tone. Aptly grungy package is adequate, though staging and soundtrack choices are uninspired.