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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Canadian Film Review: Young Triffie (2007)

* 1/2

Director: Mary Walsh
Starring: Fred Ewanuick, Mary Walsh, Remy Girard, Andrea Martin

Young Triffie is a bizarre comedy from director Mary Walsh, adapted from a stage play titled Young Triffie’s Been Made Away With. There are a lot of very funny people in the film, which naturally makes for a number of funny moments, but ultimately this story is a lot more strange than it is funny.

Fred Ewanuick stars as Ranger Hepditch, a rookie who is constantly being tormented by his fellow officers. After a series of sheep mutilations in a neighbouring village, Hepditch is sent to investigate and arrives not having realized that while he was making the journey an even more disturbing event has taken place in the village: the discovery of the corpse of a young girl named Triffie. Learning that his boss (played by Colin Mochrie) is planning to send two more qualified officers to handle the murder inquiry, Hepditch is determined to solve the mystery and prove himself worthy of his badge.

I won’t go much further into the plot because in a lot of ways the plot doesn’t matter, which is just as well since it is so shabbily constructed. This isn’t a comedy of plot, of cause and effect, as much as it is a comedy of character and manners. The plot is more or less just a means of connecting all these eccentric people, from Hepditch, who is clumsy and inept in the most charming way, to Millie Bishop (Mary Walsh), the local postmistress who steams open everyone’s mail (and throws out what she finds objectionable) and knows everything about everyone, to the local doctor (Remy Girard) who is a drunk and his morphine addicted wife (Andrea Martin), who lusts after Hepditch, and so on until you have a town filled with people so odd that they don’t really seem crazy because there’s no barometer for sanity against which to measure them.

While the characters are funny enough in and of themselves, the plot of the film really drags them down. The story begins in a more or less straight forward way (quirky, to be sure, but straight forward) but slowly descends deeper and deeper into the surreal to the point where the local preacher is leading his congregation in sort of chanting, only they’re baaa’ing - and why are they doing this? I have no idea. It just gets really weird and nonsensical by the end when Hepditch finds himself in a room with two dead bodies and one unconscious man he’s nailed (yes, nailed) to a table, and can’t wait for the other two Rangers to show up so that he can go ask out the girl he accidentally saw topless the day before.

Young Triffie is a film that tries very hard to be funny, and in certain respects it is, but it’s ultimately difficult to find a film really funny when its plot involves murder, incest, and pedophilia. The only really good thing I can say about the film is that the performances are for the most part quite charming (Martin goes a little overboard, but she is playing a morphine addict, after all), especially that of Ewanuick, who is carving out quite a niche for himself playing befuddled leading men.

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