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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.07.14] Canada thriller

If you've seen or casually changed the channels by one of Syfy's disaster movies of the week, you've probably seen Jason Bourque's work - if not his name. The director has etched himself a solid career making TV disaster movies (Seattle Superstorm, Doomsday Prophecy, Stonados) but Black Fly is a completely different beast; a movie that doesn't rely on either ridiculous plots or equally ridiculous special effects to entertain but rather on performances to make it stand out.

Matthew MacCaull and Dakota Daulby star as brothers Noel and Jake Henson. A tragedy years before separated what was left of the family and while Noel has been living at home, keeping the family abode intact, Jake has been living with an aunt and her abuse husband out in the city. After a particularly abusive night, Jake takes off, running away to the island to hide out with his brother and what at first seems like a sweet re-union soon takes and unexpected turn for the worst.

Bourque's passion project which he both wrote and directed, is a fine attempt at bringing thrills to an otherwise typical family drama and the results are a mixed bag. MacCaull and Daulby, along with co-star Christie Burke as Noel's live-in girlfriend Paula, bring the characters to life with gritty and powerful performances but the movie struggles under Bourque's script which begins to compound unnecessary problem after problem and pretty soon, the thing just gets unwieldy. Rather than focusing on the family dynamics which come with some inherently built in drama, not to mention the slow reveal of the true events that led to the brothers being separated to begin with, makes for an interesting dynamic on its own, Black Fly folds in a handful of other unnecessary and largely uninteresting side stories that take away from the movie's central themes of family.

Subtlety has not been a staple of Bourque's career to date and that comes through in some aspects of Black Fly. Though the movie looks great, the cinematography from Mahlon Todd Williams is quite lush and beautiful, Bourque has a tendency of focusing on the obvious, like the titular black fly. He returns to this image a number of times and the second time it happens, I was already rolling my eyes. That bluntness also comes through in some of the dialogue which sometimes comes across as pure exposition for exposition sake. It's not a fault on the actors, the trio of leads and much of the supporting cast is fantastic and they do what they can with the material but on occasion the exchanges feel overwritten for the characters and the situation.

Black Fly is not particularly sophisticated but the movie succeeds on a great concept, some excellent moments of tension and violence but it thrives on the performances from MacCaull, Daulby and Burke who really elevate the material. This is definitely a step up for Bourque and it left me wondering what his next passion project will deliver. He's showing great promise.

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