The lives of a troubled veteran, his nurse girlfriend and a naive boy intersect first in Alberta and then in Belgium during the bloody World War I battle of Passchendaele.The lives of a troubled veteran, his nurse girlfriend and a naive boy intersect first in Alberta and then in Belgium during the bloody World War I battle of Passchendaele.The lives of a troubled veteran, his nurse girlfriend and a naive boy intersect first in Alberta and then in Belgium during the bloody World War I battle of Passchendaele.
What Paul Gross has attempted here is to give Canadians their own war epic (and on a minuscule budget when compared to most Hollywood war films). The film is not interested in philosophizing and 'making a point'. It's something like a far, far better version of what Michael Bay was doing with "Pearl Harbor"; the film is an unabashed romance and period drama, with Passchendaele being not the focus, but the event at the end of the road which the audience knows is coming.
Paul Gross has achieved something with "Passchendaele". We see so many Canadian films every year, but very few if any of them are ever about Canada, about being Canadian (and the film doesn't shy away from depicting some of the darker sides of that, we see the hatred and pain many German Canadians experienced simply due to their origin reflected in Dunn's love interest). More than just that, "Passchendaele" is a love letter to Canada, and although I might be biased as a Calgarian and Albertan (where the film is set), I think that every Canadian will find a reason to be proud in this film, in spite of the fact that it's depicting a war where nobody really knew what they were fighting for. "Passchendaele" has its flaws. There's some really, really heavy-handed symbolism (which thankfully doesn't ruin the film) and cloying sentimentality. While I normally abhor cloying sentimentality, "Passchendaele" must be doing something right because I was with it every step of the way. There isn't a moment in this film where the characters don't feel real, where the story doesn't affect you, where the romance doesn't feel genuine (including a love scene which could have been laughable but ended up being one of the year's most beautiful scenes).
"Passchendaele" is Paul Gross' heart poured onto the screen. The man is perhaps best known for his light-hearted role on "Due South", but he is a phenomenal dramatic actor and his performance here is probably the best I've seen this year from a male lead. You can feel his character's pain, his joy, his suffering, his love. Gross spent 12 years on the screenplay, and while I'd love to say the final result is perfect it is not. It is still, however, a screenplay so filled with genuine emotion and such passion that it ends up being something rare and special. It's a wonderful, wonderful film, one which attempts no grand statement on what war is or should be, it simply shows us the emotions of those involved in it.
I could go on at length complimenting the wonderful cast, explaining the story, discussing the film in detail, but that would be pointless. It's a film every Canadian should see. I honestly don't know if there's anything here for non-Canadians, although I imagine the film is populist enough to entertain most people (there's even a healthy dose of well-written humor, and the movie has one line so hilarious and yet oddly seductive that I'll probably never forget it). I've said it already, but I'll say it again: writer, director, and star Paul Gross has achieved something special with "Passchendaele". It's a tribute to many things. Less importantly perhaps it is a tribute to Calgary and Alberta (only a Calgarian could have made this film), and more importantly it's a tribute to the pure, certain feeling of true love, to our war veterans, to the troops currently fighting in Afghanistan, to all Canadians, and ultimately and most importantly to Canada.
- Nov 12, 2008