Zach Braff starrer suffers from major problems of tone as well as stilted camerawork and editing.

A pregnant woman loses her baby when she’s the victim of a hit-and-run driver, then unknowingly falls for the perpetrator of the crime in the unconvincing drama “The High Cost of Living,” a first feature from Canadian helmer-writer Deborah Chow. Although there are moments when lead thesps Zach Braff (“Scrubs”, “Garden State”) and Isabelle Blais just about pull off the implausible conceit, the pic still suffers from major problems of tone as well as stilted camerawork and editing. Braff’s name, however, could inspire some offshore fest invites.

The accident serves as a wake-up call for the two main characters. Nathalie (the excellent Blais, heart-rending throughout) leaves her insensitive husband (Patrick Labbe, coming off like a soap-opera villain) and is given shelter by the guilt-ridden Henry (Braff, playing as if in a quirky romance). A charismatic, tender-hearted drug dealer, Henry finds his feelings for Nathalie serve as a catalyst for changing his ne’er-do-well ways. A subplot involves the family of Henry’s Chinatown landlords, whose teen son (Julian Lo) winds up suspected of the crime. In the digital screening caught at the Toronto fest, the visuals looked muddy and lacked contrast.

The High Cost of Living

Canada

Production

A Filmoption Intl. release of a Suki Films production with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Quebec Film and Television Tax Credit in association with the Movie Network, Movie Central. (International sales: Filmoption Intl., Montreal.) Produced by Kimberly Berlin, Susan Schneir. Executive producers, Heidi Levitt, Walter Klymkiw. Directed, written by Deborah Chow.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Claudine Sauve; editors, Jonathan Alberts, Benjamin Duffield; music, Normand Corbeil; production designer, Susan MacQuarrie; costume designer, Annie Dufort. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Canada First), Sept. 14, 2010. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Zach Braff, Isabelle Blais, Patrick Labbe, Julian Lo. (French, English, Cantonese dialogue)

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