Misery Loves Company

Filmby Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Other Half
RPL Theatre
Jan. 5-8
2 out of 5

Canadian film had a very strong 2016, although audiences continued not showing up. The industry was so prolific Tatiana Maslany delivered two remarkable performances: The Other Half and Two Lovers and a Bear. The latter film didn’t gather the traction it deserved in theatres, but that doesn’t diminish Maslany’s accomplishment.

The Other Half is less showy (it’s set in Toronto as opposed to Iqaluit), but is just as intense. Nickie (Tom Cullen, Downton Abbey) is a surly expat grief-stricken over his brother’s disappearance. His insouciant behavior renders him unable to keep a job or maintain a relationship — not that he would care.

Enter Emily (Maslany), a bipolar artist who appeals to the protector in Nickie. The two embark on a codependent relationship despite a plethora of red flags. But not even redemption-seekers can keep depression at bay for too long.

I’ll say this for The Other Half: It’s ballsy. Writer/director Joey Klein is true to the characters and refuses to make them likeable. He also nails bipolar disorder by keeping it grounded. None of the hysterical tropes frequently used to depict the illness make it into the movie. Even Henry Czerny and Suzanne Clement as Emily’s disapproving parents are far from villainous. They’ve gone down this route before and are just tired of dealing with the wreckage.

Unfortunately, because of the film’s nature, it’s a bit hard to swallow. Without a plot to drive momentum, we are stuck with Emily and Nickie and their misery, and it can get trying. I’m all for artistic integrity and stories that unfold deliberately, but throwing the audience a bone once in a while buys you time and goodwill.