Thoughtful writer-helmer Ross Weber takes on a number of tough subjects — including marital fidelity, prostitution, drug addiction and urban development — and covers the territory well, if sometimes sketchily, in this confidently handled character study of three couples on a messy collision course in a downmarket Vancouver neighborhood. Given its unsensational view of modern urban angst, “Mount Pleasant” may face an uphill battle with Yank distribs, but the pic is grabbing attention in release across Canada and will be high-toned fare for smart cable programmers.
Distinctively lensed pic initially focuses on Doug and Sarah Cameron (Ben Ratner and Camille Sullivan), who eventually cross paths with two other couples who also live in the marginal neighborhood called Mount Pleasant.
Trouble starts when the first couple’s small daughter gets poked with a needle left behind by some anonymous loser. Then Doug spots slick realtor Stephen Burrows (Shawn Doyle) canoodling with a hooker (Katie Boland) and ends up posting a letter to Stephen’s wife Anne (Kelly Rowan), a suburbanite already in deep-dish denial.
The wealthy Burrows’ troubles weigh heavily on their teenage child (Genevieve Buechner), who’s retreating into goth cynicism. Intriguingly, Doyle and Buechner get many of the tale’s most touching scenes, with dad and daughter’s relationship too complex for simple moralizing.
A bit more fleshing out would have helped auds to understand the rage fueling Ratner’s tightly wound character and the self-destructive obsessions of Anne’s junkie boyfriend (Tygh Runyan), who keeps stealing power tools, with dire consequences.
Pic’s cool look, courtesy of lenser A. Jonathan Benny, helps sustain a sober tone, which resists shading over into melodrama thanks to Weber’s steady hand in this assured follow-up to his wholly improvised “No More Monkeys Jumpin’ on the Bed.” Script leaves many questions unanswered, but thesps provide enough variety to relieve mounting, sometimes unpleasant, tension. Young Boland and Buechner are the cast standouts; quick coda, shot in different light and focusing on the latter’s refreshed visage, makes for a quietly upbeat finish.