You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


In the closing credits of his first feature, "Twist," Canadian actor-turned-director Jacob Tierney thanks Charles Dickens, whose well-loved novel is the basis of this pic. Perhaps Dickens wouldn't recognize his characters transposed to contempo Montreal's gay-sex-for-sale scene, but his crime-infested London in "Oliver Twist" was considered pretty radical in its day.

Dodge - Nick Stahl Oliver - Joshua Close Fagin - Gary Farmer Nancy - Michele-Barbara Pelletier

This review was updated at 6:15 p.m.

In the closing credits of his first feature, “Twist,” Canadian actor-turned-director Jacob Tierney thanks Charles Dickens, whose well-loved novel about the orphan is the basis of this pic. Perhaps Dickens wouldn’t recognize his characters transposed to contempo Montreal’s gay-sex-for-sale scene, but his crime-infested London in “Oliver Twist” was considered pretty radical in its day. Pic will have limited commercial appeal, but with critical support (which is possible) it could return its modest costs in niche engagements and ancillary.

Although his is unlike any other version of the story ever filmed and despite a tendency to wallow in the sordidness of it all, Tierney (best known for his role in “The Neon Bible”), clearly has talent, not least in getting fine performances from his actors. Oliver, played by newcomer Joshua Close, is a rent-boy in this version of the story but the emphasis is as much on the character of the Artful Dodger, here called simply Dodge, and played with riveting intensity by Nick Stahl, as it is on Close’s handsome, soulful Oliver.

Dodge leaves the bed of the man with whom he’s spent the night and heads for a run-down diner, the Three Cripples, where he meets the sweet and sympatico Nancy (Michele-Barbara Pelletier). Dodge, a heroin addict, works for Fagin (Gary Farmer) who employs a group of young men all of whom live in a dormitory under his watchful eye (his office door bears the inscription, “Headmaster”).

Fagin carries out operations under the control of the Bill Sykes character, here called simply Bill, who lives with Nancy. One of the “twists” of Tierney’s screenplay is that Bill is never seen, an interesting idea, although it diminishes the drama at pic’s end.

Dodge recruits Oliver, who has run away from his umpteenth foster home (he left the last one because his undertaker foster-father made him sleep in a coffin). Obviously smitten with Dodge, who doesn’t reciprocate, Oliver willingly enters into the lifestyle of the gay hustler.

Shot on location in subdued colors, “Twist” offers much less hope for its troubled characters than Dickens did. Its very downbeat vision may turn off auds, which is a pity because the film has a great many qualities, not least the admirable performances of Stahl, Close and Pelletier. There is no music score, but the soundtrack is lifted by a number of mournful songs performed by, among others, Yann Perreau and Royal City.

Popular on Variety



Production: A Victorious Films production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada and the Movie Network, in association with Movie Central, Corus Entertainment Co., Ardglasson Prods., Dandelion Entertainment Ventures and Dufferin Square. (International sales: Victorious Films, Montreal.) Produced by Victoria Hirst. Executive producers, Kevin Tierney, Dan Lyon. Directed, written by Jacob Tierney.

Crew: Camera (color), Gerald Packer; editor, Mitchell Lackie; production designer, Ethan Tobman; costume designer, Joanna Syrokomla; sound (Dolby), Benito Amaro; associate producers, Gina Rugolo, Adrienne Stern; assistant director, Mike Masters; casting, Jenny Lewis. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics' Week), Aug. 28, 2003. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Dodge - Nick Stahl Oliver - Joshua Close Fagin - Gary Farmer Nancy - Michele-Barbara PelletierWith: Stephen McHattie, Tygh Runyan, Brigid Tierney, Moti Yona.

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content