Unobtrusively set in the early ’70s, along the Bay of Miramichi in New Brunswick, this atmospheric Canadian entry about a rich kid’s social experiment with communal finances and its tragic impact on a small community may spark comparisons with last year’s sleeper hit “In the Bedroom.” Staged in a small, coastal town, based on a book the filmmaker venerates, and fueled by a dangerous mix of respectable middle-class and lower-class elements, “Bay” lacks only the big-name cast. Fairly well-sustained literary drama could generate indie interest.
Michael (Jonathan Scarfe), a judge’s son, newly returned from his grand tour of India, is a golden boy who coasts on his money and charm. Effortlessly attracting both men and women, able to seduce them to his well-meaning whims, he never considers the consequences of his acts.
Democratically sharing his time, body, car and boat with those less fortunate than he, namely his main summer squeeze, Madonna (Joanne Kelly), and her younger, impressionable brother, Silver (Christopher Jacot), he even extends his largesse to cover Everette Hatch (Peter Outerbridge), the town criminal, who his father put away. Picking up on Michael’s naive ideas of egalitarian sharing, Everette convinces the threesome to put their money in a collective piggy bank, only to use the funds for a drug deal he blackmails them into. The deal soon goes sour, and events spiral out of control.
The last third of “Bay,” a bit like “Bedroom,” attempts a genre sea change and enters thriller territory that its small-scale, everyday-life storytelling style isn’t really equipped to handle. Though each dramatic flash point builds convincingly enough, film lacks the epic sweep that such a Shakespearean body pileup implies.
The actors, while able to flesh out their characters’ limitations, can’t really transcend their little pieces of plot. The one exception is tyro Kelly, who incarnates the only truly tragic character in the bunch. Her Madonna, a queer amalgam of high-fashion model looks, brittle working-class cynicism and passionate commitment, clearly sees what’s going down but is unable to stop it.
Tech credits are uniformly fine, with lensing, editing and music all anchoring pic firmly in self-contained rural domain.