Starring Tatiana Maslany. Playing Sunday and Wednesday, April 14 and 17, and Sunday, Monday and Thursday, April 21, 22, and 25, at the Vancity Theatre
There’s no shortage of teen comedies or coming-of-age tales in general, but whatever the category, Picture Day is something special.
Set in an unnamed Toronto, the tale centres on Claire, a thick-skinned high-schooler played definitively by young TV veteran Tatiana Maslany. Living with her self-absorbed mother (Fiona Highet), Claire is irked to be repeating grade 12, although not enough to actually attend classes. She’s busier haunting the indie-rock scene, nailing the leader of a band called The ElastoCitizens—a real group, although the singer (Steven McCarthy) is fictionalized. Good thing, too, because he’s over 30 and doesn’t realize that Claire is only marginally legal.
Elsewhere, she’s distracted by the arrival of grade-niner Henry (Spencer Van Wyck), whom she babysat when younger. He’s escaping a school for gifted kids, and has little grasp on how normals behave. With her unisex clothes and panoply of enemies, Claire is perhaps an odd choice for lifestyle coach, but she gives him a hip makeover in time for the yearbook-photos of the title. Of course, she’s unaware that Henry has been obsessed with her for years. (That box of carefully labeled Clairetifacts is particularly worrisome.)
These darker elements are handled lightly, as are Claire’s promiscuous tendencies, here unconnected with the pleas for affection typically found in such tales. First-time writer-director Kate Miles Melville takes a non-judgmental view of her characters, likable even when doing dumb things. The smaller parts are equally well written and acted, with cast standouts including the Seth Rogenesque Mark DeBonis, as a world-weary bingo-hall worker, and Susan Coyne, as Henry’s birdlike mom. The latter is horrified at his new friends, and hair, but glad to see him leaving his room.
The wintry-looking film was well shot by Mexico’s Celiana Cárdenas. And all the music is either live or emanating from Claire’s mp3 player. Fuckin’ cool, eh?