How refreshing it is to see a film that is beautifully acted, directed and filmed that really has something important to say! Maybe the last time Hollywood did that was American Beauty. That's why I was delighted to happen upon Outside Chance, produced in British Columbia and filmed in Manitoba, far from the schlock, glitz and artifice of Hollywood. This is a "small" movie big enough to be worth seeking out.
On one level, it is a poignant, funny, warmhearted, intelligent exploration of the tensions inherent in being a stranger in a strange land, in this case, being Jewish in a prairie town in Canada. The leaders of the Jewish community (with good reason) don't feel they have been welcomed by the dominant community of non-Jews in the town, and they struggle to maintain their cultural uniqueness while endeavoring to avoid being seen as "different." But these desires inherently conflict, and they come to the surface via the interactions of the community, the 12-year-old protagonist (a boy who is the movie's truth-teller), his Christian friend and incipient girlfriend (who is also his two-hands piano partner), and a Lubovitcher Hasidic rabbi, who offers wisdom that excites the boy's mind and heart while conflicting with the community's wishes. The story looks unblinkingly at both the nontrivial weaknesses and enormous strengths of Jewish culture, yet could just as well have been about Vietnamese in America, Pakistanis in England or Greeks in Australia.
On another level, it is about the struggle to be true to one's individual nature, as opposed to what society expects of us. The boy has to confront the question "Does honoring your parents always mean complying with their wishes." The rabbi faces the question of how he wants to fulfill his life's mission.
These are serious questions, handled with a deft, light touch, in a script with just the right amount of warmth and wit, in a place that is somehow both familiar and strange, far from the usual Hollywood sets. Oh yes, and the klezmir music is wonderful!
Clearly a 10.
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