A film with considerable potential is ruined by its length.
It’s a Coming-of-Age movie from Canada. The Canadian cinema industry has several Coming-of-Age films worth mentioning: Dave Shultz’s Jet Boy, Daniel Grou’s 10 1/2, and Franc Vitale’s Montreal Main are just a few noteworthy ones.
South of the Moon shares some of the qualities of those great films: an intriguing story, a promising young lead and, as a bonus, a moody soundtrack with jazz and soft rock songs that fit the film’s theme. That score even features a boys’ choir performance, though I have reservations about its appropriateness in relation to the scene in which it plays.
The film features the Coming-of-Age experiences of twelve-year-old Coleman Hawkins and his uncle Matt. To Coleman, Coming-of-Age presents many challenges: love, confusion, nervousness around girls, sexual curiosity (challenges common to many kids his age) and all that while trying to make sense of the world that surrounds him. For Matt, although he is older, his changes and transformations, the experiences that shape his life and personality (told via flashbacks), are equally enticing. Coleman and his uncle share an extraordinary bond: despite the age difference, Matt is Coleman’s best friend and something more…
Jake McLeod as Coleman Hawkins and Devery Jacobs as Alexa Dumont in South of the Moon
The plot of South of the Moon is complicated, essentially tying a Coming-of-Age story with one of immense love. Although this approach is innovative to me, at times, the ties that connect the stories weaken. As a result, it’s entirely possible that many viewers will get lost and, consequently, will be bored by the time the film’s first hour has elapsed. I came to appreciate the movie only on my second viewing – armed with all the knowledge I had gained from the first time I watched it. But I believe a real negative issue lies in the film’s length. I feel that scenes could have been cut, preventing this from being a 102-minute movie.
Jake McLeod made an excellent debut in the role of Coleman Hawkins. It’s a shame that the film’s director, Antonio DiVerdis, lacked experience working with young cast members. There was often a stilted, unnatural feel to the dialogue and interactions between the young actors. Yet Jake’s talent shone through. The film’s real star, though, is the Canadian actor John Ralston in the role of Coleman’s uncle Matt. He was brilliant and really made the movie. Fortunately, he worked exceptionally well with his young co-star, which enhanced both of their stories.
John Ralston as Matt Hawkins in South of the Moon
I enjoyed the independent feel of the film. Subtle hints and a bit of controversy are frequently featured in Canadian movies, making them stand out compared to most American productions. The plot features some dramatic story twists, which could have made the film much more interesting if it were not for the somewhat clichéd ending. Admittedly, the story failed to involve me emotionally. Yet, although I rarely say that, the lack of emotional attachment did not ruin my experience.
I would recommend the film despite the few shortcomings I’ve mentioned. South of the Moon is an innovative independent Coming-of-Age film that deserves its chance to be appreciated.
Film title: South of the Moon
Release year: 2008 – Stargaze Pictures
Director: Antonio DiVerdis
Cast: John Ralston, Jake McLeod, Moya O’Connell, Daniel Richard Giverin, Jayne Heitmeyer and others