★ ★ ★ ★
To me the still shot of two teens, one wearing an Edward Bear t-shirt, hitchhiking on a two-lane highway is a powerfully nostalgic Canadian image. I grew up in 1970s era Nova Scotia where hundreds of kids (me included) hitchhiked on roads big and small. The image is iconic, a sentimental picture of a simpler time brought to vivid life in “Weirdos,” Bruce McDonald and Daniel MacIvor's sweet new coming of age story.
Set in 1976 “Weirdos” puts McDonald back on the road. The “Hard Core Logo” director has a way with road movies and here he keeps the story of Kit (Dylan Authors), a bored Antigonish 15 year-old, in constant motion. Kit wants a different life, one far, far away from the small town existence offered by his dad (Allan Hawco) and grandmother (Cathy Jones).
With girlfriend Alice (Julia Sara Stone) in tow Kit hangs out his thumb, hitchhiking toward a change. As the pair make their way to Kit’s artistic mother Laura (Molly Parker)—she knows Andy Warhol!—the nature of the teen’s relationship is challenged as the young man grapples with his sexuality.
With some melancholy and much humour “Weirdos” expertly strings together the small moments that make up Kit’s life. Warm, affectionate and wallpapered with a K-Tel soundtrack of 70’s Cancon, it follows his journey to self-discovery. Authors and Stone do most of the heavy lifting here, handing in naturalistic, understated performances but it’s Parker and Hawko who provide the emotional sparks.
As absent mother Laura, Parker has the film’s flashiest role. She’s a dysfunctional grand dame with an imagined connection to Warhol and a headful of dreams. Her screen time amounts to little more than an extended cameo but Parker’s work is so vivid, so alive, it feels as though we’ve known her for years.
“The Republic of Doyle’s” Hawko is quieter, but poignant as the father who must explain himself in one of the film’s best scenes.
“Weirdos” is the story of outsiders, but as there are more people outside the circle than in, it really is a universal story of self-examination, one that can be enjoyed even if you’ve never hitchhiked or worn an Edward Bear t-shirt.