Starring Joshua Jackson and Liane Balaban. Rated PG. Opens Friday, March 6, at the Cinema Tinseltown
There's little to One Week that isn't clever, well crafted, or mildly entertaining. But there's also hardly anything that carries the depth its subject matter implies and, in fact, requires.
Former Vancouverite Joshua Jackson plays Ben, a high-school English teacher and failed writer. He is facing a somewhat dull existence in Toronto with fiancée Samantha (Liane Balaban) when he gets really bad news: he has Stage 4 cancer, with a limited time to live.
Watch the trailer for One Week.
Having been handed such a classic plot device, he does what any red-corpuscled Canadian would do and buys a motorcycle, instantly heading west to Terminal City. The trip itself has a high Canuck factor, including encounters with the Sudbury Nickel, Tragically Hip leader Gordon Downie, and rim-rolling cups of Tim Hortons coffee.
When the rib-elbowing aspects of the journey wear off, however, we're not met with a memorable enough set of characters, places, or events upon which to hang a movie, let alone a life. Even Ben's romantic run-in with a guitar-strumming tree sprite (Emm Gryner) gets the throwaway treatment.
Writer-director Michael McGowan handles the medium better than he did in the ghastly period piece Saint Ralph, bringing along that film's Campbell Scott as a narrator who puts Ben's travels into literary perspective. But his packaging techniques—the humorous jump cuts, ironic juxtapositions, and jangling CanCon pop songs—only serve to distance viewers from the Week protagonist, likely destined to be a boring fellow whether he lives or dies.
Jackson invests much ordinary humanity in the role, but our hero's central dilemma—his unseen talents have been thwarted by childhood criticism—is murderously banal. It doesn't help that there is zero chemistry with Balaban, whose character is written as insensitive and superfluous. In short, it's a movie designed for young men getting ready to contemplate mortality, but not too hard.