OK as a mildly comic cross-country hymn to all things Canadian, “One Week” addresses its oft-repeated central question — “What would you do if you had one week to live?” — by giving us a protagonist who, faced with probably terminal illness, goes off on a motorcycle road trip that matches his personality. Which is to say: kinda aimless, pleasant and bland. A labor of love for sophomore writer-director Michael McGowan (of well-received debut “Saint Ralph”) with too little viewer payoff, this innocuous item looks destined for smallscreen gigs beyond the Great White North.
Though he feels fine, Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson) is informed he has Stage 4 cancer, with remote odds of long-term survival. Deciding to delay the grueling treatment regime, he bewilders his fiancee, Samantha (Liane Balaban), and his parents (Fiona Reid, Chuck Shamata) by buying a hog and taking off from Toronto on a westward journey of unknown duration. He visits novelty sites (world’s largest fire hydrant, etc.), meets some folks, ponders whether he really wants to get married and experiences a couple non-earth-shaking mishaps.
His adventure is commented on a lot by an omniscient narrator (Campbell Scott, briefly seen at the end), who also contributes much Canuck trivia. Further stabs at freewheeling cuteness arrive via flashbacks to Ben’s formative disappointments and flash-forwards to the life changes his presence accidentally visits upon passing new acquaintances. Trouble is, our hero himself doesn’t change or become someone truly interesting. He’s just Generic Nice Guy, duly played with wry amiability by Jackson.
Ben always wanted to be a writer, though that got discouraged, — but nothing here suggests he’d have anything to say, particularly about his own life experiences. He worries Samantha is too boring and normal for him. But apart from his air of slackerish discontent, those same adjectives might just as easily apply to Ben.
The yearning to be creative and special — while it can be poignant in itself — shouldn’t be confused with being those things, a mistake McGowan appears to be make here. Nor does he surround Ben with the kinds of memorable incidents or supporting figures that might actually lend him distinctive character.
Result is inoffensive. But even the protag’s looming mortality never seems more than a familiar narrative gimmick.
Similarly, Arthur E. Cooper’s widescreen lensing captures much spectacular scenery unspectacularly; the soundtrack is wallpapered with Canadian contemporary singer-songwriter tracks that are nice, but tend to blur together. All other aspects are pro if uninspired.