Starring Tatiana Maslany. Rated PG
Having witnessed his new lover Emily (Tatiana Maslany) succumbing to a long and exhausting manic episode, Nickie (Tom Cullen) steps outside to find clouds of lightning billowing silently on the horizon, as if nature above is sending an ominously majestic tribute to the misfiring human neurochemistry below. That’s no CGI; it’s a young and mobile film crew responding to a brief moment of serendipity, captured the same day as Maslany’s big scene, which should inspire similar feelings of wonder. The Toronto actor is entirely your best reason to catch this homegrown effort, modestly undertaken between friends and actual lovers (Cullen and Maslany are a couple in real life).
An established actor himself, writer-director Joey Klein has been trying to get this passion project off the ground for years, so it naturally arrives fully formed in lots of ways. Broken by the disappearance of his little brother, Cullen’s Nickie is a Brit who’s exiled himself to a dull, grey Toronto, a part-time taxi driver (consider it a reference) whose explosive bouts of violence keep him as alienated as cinematographer Bobby Shore’s discomfiting compositions would clearly like us to think. The funniest moment in the entire film, and it’s not exactly a gut-buster, is when Nickie silently drives down the street flipping the bird to everyone he passes.
Maslany’s Emily is an artist with severe bipolar disorder, a grandstanding role if ever there was one, but not in this impressive young actor’s hands. Klein puts these two together and offers no easy way forward. They separate when she spirals too far; they reunite under a very uncertain peace. There’s not much more to The Other Half besides its slight story and these performances, and one wishes that Klein had paid as much attention to Deragh Campbell and especially Mark Rendall, as her friend and his cousin, respectively. He neither acts nor talks like a real person in a movie that otherwise strives hard for emotional truth. (As Emily’s embattled parents, Henry Czerny and Suzanne Clément fare much better in sequences pitched for high drama.) Cullen’s wall-to-wall brooding might also have benefited from another note or two, but in the end it’s a show that belongs to the other half, and boy, does she ever own it.