Canadian Film Festival: ‘Waiting For Summer’ has a lot of loose threads that don’t tie together
Directed by Senthil Vinu
The definition of ‘pretentious’ is the attempt to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, and culture than is actually possessed. In cinematic terms, this means a film that champions style over substance. Senthil Vinu’s dramatic art piece, Waiting For Summer, unfortunately fits that description; a fact rendered more distressing when one considers how little style it had to begin with.
The film follows the intertwining lives of two Canadian expatriates living in Toronto, Zach and Chantal. As they both try to sort out their respective family histories, their lives become inexplicably entangled (remember the word ‘inexplicably’), leading them both on a journey of healing and self-discovery. At least that’s what it says on the itinerary.
From the get go, Waiting For Summer is a definitive structural mess. Hoping to capitalize on the concept of celebrated films like Magnolia and Short Cuts, Waiting For Summer tries incessantly to connect all of the characters into one, driven narrative.
But it doesn’t work. The reason why the aforementioned classics do is because they involve genuine, fleshed out characters that reflect real-world sensibilities. Waiting For Summer’s ultimate failure is that the characters in it are incredibly one dimensional, poorly written, and haphazardly portrayed.
Without resorting to ad hominem or unfair invectives, it should be said that the acting in this film is universally substandard. The male lead, Caleb Verzyden, seems to have graduated from the Keanu Reeves School of Acting, hardly showing any emotion in emotional situations; and like Reeves, the only time he’s believable is when he’s confused (start a drinking game for every time he stares aimless at nothing; you’ll be knackered). The female lead, Virginia Leigh, is just as lackluster. Her natural disposition is to smile in every situation, and when she’s required to emote, she is nowhere near believable.
The only thing worse than the two separate, is the two together. There is naught chemistry between them, and if you look closely, they seem to keep a healthy physical distance from each other. When they’re both required to vocalize powerful, poignant verses of revelatory dialogue, the delivery is flat, and monotone. To a seasoned film aficionado, they’re cringe-worthy.
To compensate for the lack of affability with the characters, Vinu introduces a series of caricaturist affectations. Zach is a pot-smoking, video blogging, unshaven cyclist. Chantal plays vinyl instead of mp3’s, and uses a payphone instead of having a mobile. What do these things have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. They do not contribute to the story arc, advance character development, or add any depth in general. The reason they’re there is because it’s what hip, down-with-it kids think is cool.
Added to that, both Zach and Chantal engage in juvenile philosophizing. These pseudo-intellectual ramblings are supposed to impress the viewer, but because they are vague, incoherent, poorly conceived red herrings, it all feels far too random. Plus, the delivery of these lines is expectedly dismal.
Lastly, the neo-folk music and melodramatic piano score that permeates the film further adds another layer of pretention. In other indie films, such as Juno, this sort of quirky, unconventional score works because they appropriately reflect the outlandish, eccentric anima of the characters. In Waiting For Summer, the characters are dull, dull, dull. The score feels out of place, trying to manipulate the viewer into seeing the characters as idiosyncratic. If Vinu honestly wanted to implement a score that truly reflected the characters, then he should have drowned out the film with never-ending successions of boring funeral requiems.
In the official 2012 Canadian Film Festival program guide, where it lists screening schedules and production credits, the category of ‘written by’ is ostensibly absent under the Waiting For Summer slot. Whether a typo or an overlooked clerical error, the fact remains that after seeing Waiting For Summer, you’ll probably think this omission is a case of poetic justice.
– Justin Li