Sleeping Giant is an excellent comparison piece to my previously reviewed film Les Demons, in that this film touches on similar themes of youth and fear, but, as the boys in this film are slightly older, themes of sex, desire and rebellion coalesce.
Synopsis: Adam meets troublesome cousins Nick and Riley while on summer vacation on the shores of Lake Superior. Clearly from different worlds, Adam struggles to fit in and find his place in their stimulating world of carpe diem adventures.
The film, written and directed by Andrew Cividino is a first feature-length for the young director and a very touching and humbling film. The film avoids strong assertions and obvious lessons; like Les Demons, this is another film where often what is left unspoken is much more powerful and important than what is overtly stated. These dynamics are played out on screen visually with the interactions between the boys: Nick and Riley are loud, often saying far too much about superficial things, while Adam is quiet, not nearly speaking up enough, even in defense of himself. What the film lands on is the possibility of language to fail us – that we may feel things we cannot express, and that simply by speaking one may be suppressing their true emotions.
I am specifically avoiding labeling this film as a “Coming of Age”, in that there is no singular defining moment in the film that fits this genre. The movie is riddled with moments, rather, of “coming of self” in which every character (except, notably, one) on screen at some point, eventually, has the realization that their actions have consequences, and affect others, perhaps more than they wish.
We are also subject as viewers to some powerful cinematography, by James Klopko,which truly gives power to those moments of quiet emotion as previously mentioned. We as an audience, can often only assume or sympathize to how the characters are feeling, we are not overtly or explicitly told. Thus, the film is a tactile, sensual, affect-experience.
This film is also, joyously, as Canadian as it gets. The location is never hidden and is rather celebrated (Sleeping Giant being an actual physical canadian location as well), full blown Canadian accents are often in effect, and even the musical score is Canadian, from original score by the band Bruce Peninsula, to tracks by beloved Canadian singer-songwriter Mac Demarco. This is a rare distinction for many English-Canadian films that bend to outside pressure and “Americanize” in order to reach a wider audience. By not “avoiding” place, Cividino has actually presented a story defined not by place itself, but by true human experience.