BERLIN –“Mustard Bath” doesn’t cut it on any dramatic level. Guyana-set second feature of Canadian maverick Darrell Wasyk sets out as a search for identity and mislays its compass about halfway through. Indie pic may get some mileage on the fest circuit but looks to take a B.O. bath of its own.
Dedicated to “the memory of my mother,” it’s an attempt at meditative cinema, following a Guyana-born Canadian doctor, Matthew (Michael Riley), as he revisits the land of his youth to exorcise painful memories of rejection by his mom.
In true odyssey fashion, the people he meets point up aspects and deficiences of his own character.
Hungarian exile Grace (Martha Henry), endlessly reminiscing about the old days in Guyana, becomes a surrogate mother figure; local teacher Mindy (Alissa Trotz) represents the country’s allure; and young orphan Dexter (Fernando Da Silva) recalls the doctor’s happy childhood.
Like many self-discovery pix, however, Wasyk’s makes the cardinal error of falling into the same vagueness as the hero. When Mindy, after a lovemaking sesh , starts screaming at Matthew that he’s afraid of something, she meets the same blank wall as the rest of the cast. Later, from a local priest (Eddy Grant), viewers learn that Matthew could be suffering from “poverty of the spirit.”
Poverty of the script is more like it. Canadian thesp Henry makes the most of her long monologues and other supports are solid.
But there’s not enough going on beneath the surface to justify almost two hours with the main character, especially in Riley’s male-model performance.
Dream sequences, and jolting scenes such as our hero masturbating in bed one night or performing an emergency amputation on a sugar-cane worker, seem spliced in from a parallel movie.
Wasyk and young cameraman Barry Peterson conjure up some beautiful images. Technically, the production is smooth all the way, with an emotive, churning score by Rob Carroll.