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South of the Moon (2008)

South of the Moon 2008 coming of age movie reviewA film with a big 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 well worth mentioning:  Dave Shultz’s Jet Boy,  Daniel Grou’s 10 1/2, and Franc Vitale’s Montreal Main are just a few of the noteworthy ones.

South of the Moon shares some of the qualities of those great films: an intriguing story, a promising young lead and, as an added bonus, a moody soundtrack with jazz and soft rock songs that really fit the theme of the film. That score even features a boys choir performance, though I have reservations as to 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 a very special bond: despite the difference in ages, 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 (2008)

First love

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 big love. Although this approach is innovative to me, at times the ties that connect the stories weaken.  As a result, it’s quite possible that many viewers will get lost and, as a consequence, will be bored by the time the first hour of the film has elapsed. In fact, I came to appreciate the film 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 there are definitely scenes that 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 the experience of 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 real star of the film, 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 extremely well with his young co-star and that really enhanced both of their stories.

John Ralston as Matt Hawkins in South of the Moon 2008

John Ralston as Matt Hawkins in South of the Moon

I really enjoyed the independent feel of the film.  Subtle hints and a bit of controversy are frequently featured in the Canadian movies and that makes them stand out when compared with 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 .

Overall, 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.

2 star rating south of the moon 2008 movie review at theskykidcom

 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

 Official film site / IMDB page




  2. I thought Jake McLeod was quite good, although I felt he was a little forced at times. Almost like they didn’t have time to do another take and had to settle for certain ones. But I know exactly what that is like.
    I really don’t like being negative on a film, especially one as independant as this one, as I am in the same boat in my country. I feel it is good to analyse why this film didn’t work for me though.
    I thought the soundtrack was ok. More of an ambient feel might of worked better, instead of these tracks with a lot of vocals. Vocals over dialogue is never the wisest choice. I liked the jazz side to it though.
    You mentioned the choir track being used in an odd place. I think the scene as a whole is very uncomfortable for the viewer, so adding that choir track somewhat adds to the awkwardness of the scene. Although, this was most likely intentional.

  3. As much as I would like to have another riverting discussion with you SkyKid,with differing view, unfortunetely I felt very similar about the this film. I agree with a lot of what you say in your review.
    Here are my comments:

    The constant flashbacks became quite annoying, bouncing around between focuses on character. Matt, then his friend, then back to the boy. It is obviously all connected, yet it still felt somewhat misplaced and prolonged, on that note: I felt the flashback scenes went for far too long which really made me loose focus on the core story, which is the boy (or which should’ve been the core story). This lack of focus was a big hindrance on the characters. None of them had goals (save for the boy), none of them had obstacles either evidentially because of the lack of objective. The only real depth to the characters was their emotional state after the fact and the exploration of what happened before the fact was nowhere near enough engagement to make me feel emotionally connected to these characters. None of them were challenged in any aspect. None of them had a grand struggle which made us root for them.

    Just when I thought the focus was going to primarily follow the boy, we swing back into a flashback of when Matt returns after three years. I hate to say it, but it’s almost a situation of why should we care about this character? The writer has given us absolutely no reason to. I understand the whole free spirited musician angle and I respect exploring that side of someone, but the character still NEEDS to have something that he is working towards. Something that keeps us saying “Go man, go” and “I want to see how this pans out”. I think that applies to all of the characters in the film and because of this the 103 min duration seems like 3 hours.

    I started getting more interested when they explored the reasons why Matt is the way he is. Starting with the night terrors. But an unnecessary and very prolonged sex scene, again, diminished what could’ve been a powerful angle turn. Although it could be argued that this sex scene was in place to signify the fact that Matt hides his past and diverts from anyone delving into it. I still felt it was far too long and drawn out though.

    I predicted the outcome of the story right from beginning as well. It was bleeding obvious what was going to happen. Why did they not just reveal this at the start?

    Another problem was Coleman’s love for the girl. I just didn’t feel the desperation. It was literally just handed to him. She liked him right from the start, and his love for her was never really explored that well. It just touched on the surface, and when the scenes where he is explaining to his uncle at he does not want to leave for the Olympic camp comes around, it’s just not powerful at all. It’s merely a conversation.

    I honestly believe if the main focus had of been just on Matt, then this would’ve been a stronger film. His decent, resurrection and relationship with his son all could’ve been explored in these 103 mins, with a primary focus on one goal. The most emotional and engaging parts of the film was when we were subjected to Matt’s constant metal torture and his battle with his past. Also the relationship between him and Bobo.

    Also the color grade was an interesting choice. It almost looks as if it is 12bit 2K (or more) Raw footage, un-graded. I’m more than sure this wouldn’t be the case, but the de-saturated and washed out color palette was odd. I guess it represents the world that Matt is living in, as well as Coleman in a small way. This constant mental struggle of seeing the world in that manner. However, it felt almost post-apocalyptic.

    • Excellent analysis. And I agree : the nightmares , the unexpected return of Matt from somewhere – are just few of the underdeveloped ideas that come and go in this film. While the idea of combining two stories in one is as I stated in my review intriguing – a story that focuses on one of the characters – Matt as you suggested might have been the wiser choice. Jake McLeod was an intriguing lead – his appearance on screen felt somehow raw – distinct that many of the young actors I have seen in movies recently – and that was one of the best things about the film. What did you think of the soundtrack ?


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