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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.03.12] Canada comedy drama

Claire and Henry are high school outcasts on the opposite ends of the uncool scale: Henry is a ninth grade science genius who walks the halls invisible to the rest of the student population while Claire is the failed twelfth grader with a reputation who is back to re-take the required classes in order to graduate. Over a joint, the unlikely pair rekindle a friendship that goes back to their youth when Claire was Henry's babysitter.

The pair quickly fall back into old routines and Picture Day unfolds as Claire, who is dating a much older musician, takes on the task of making Henry visible. She gives him a makeover, a reputation and tips on getting people, specifically girls, to notice him all the while Henry has been secretly crushing on his mentor since the early days of their babysitting adventures.

Though Picture Day begins with Claire's story, it very quickly establishes that she's not the central character but that the spotlight will be shared with Henry. Along the course of the movie, we follow both Claire and Henry as they grow and experiment with relationships only to discover that they have been involved in relationships that don't work when what they're looking for is right in front of them.

Picture Day feels more authentic than the typically presented tales of high school self discovery. Both Henry and Claire feel like real people and though both come with their own baggage. Henry's parents are neither over protective nor completely clueless but rather a combination of the two extremes while Claire's mother is more in line with the expected cliche of a broken family, a girl who comes from a home where she's obviously in charge of herself with little input from her mother.

Writer/director Kate Miles Melville manages to find unique voices for both characters to deliver two individuals who are relatable, even if Claire is less likable than the typical lead in a teen movie. Tatiana Maslany, who made a splash a few years back with the fantastic Grown Up Movie Star, shines here as Claire, a young woman caught between adolescence and adulthood while Spencer Van Wyck, best known for his recurring role on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," is no less memorablr as the awkward blue-haired and shy Henry.

Picture Day isn't breaking new ground but it does offer up a much more realistic approach to the coming of age tale, one that is mostly free of cliches. Unfortunately, the two character storyline which helps make Picture Day unique is also its biggest detriment. The fact that both Claire and Henry share the lead means that neither storyline feels fully developed and the progression from friendship to romance, though not surprising, doesn't feel as natural as it should.

The coming-of-age-drama playing field is thick with entries and it's unlikely Picture Day will be remembered in the long term, it's subtle and smart where most of its counterparts are loud and riddled with quirk, but Melville's movie plays well and showcases a great talent in Maslany not to mention that it marks the first time director as one to keep an eye on.

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