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TIFF: Why The Husband Became My Favourite Toronto Movie

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If you're not a fan of gush, you may as well stop reading now. Sunday was the world premiere of Bruce McDonald's new movie and I can only gush.

How would you would feel if your wife cheated on you, just after having your baby? Ok. And what if it was with a fuzzy-lipped, wet-mouthed, sloppy-back-packed adolescent? And you had to go to court with her in a media-frenzy while she was sentenced to prison time, leaving you with a new son, a broken heart and a lot of questions she's too far away to answer? I'd go sort of nuts. And so does Henry Andreas (Max McCabe-Lokos) because he is The Husband.

I admit I have a minor obsession with Toronto's McCabe-Lokos (Paris 1919) harkening back to his years as frontman of the Deadly Snakes. His performance is this movie. His acting is crazy physical, fully committed and it totally sucks you into Henry's struggle. The way his eyes flicker is why you start crying. The amount of time it takes him to answer a question is where a joke lives.

It's not just McCabe-Lokos though -- all the performances are spot on. Every character feels like it existed before the camera was on it and will continue to exist when it turns away: from The Canadian Clint Eastwood who plays Alyssa's dad to the little baby McCabe-Lokos who really knows when to goo and when to ga.

I laugh every time Henry's friend Rusty (August Diehl) opens his German slash of a mouth. The teen boy, Dylan Authors, hardly speaks and yet he manages to seem real. Alyssa is played by Sarah Allen (How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You) and despite looking like she's trying to cry most of the time, she really nails it. Toronto is the setting in a way I find disappointingly uncommon: it's incidental to the story but iconically and unapologetically itself.

It feels like The Husband was made for McCabe-Lokos because it was. He conceived of the script five years ago with Kelly Harms, it went through some development but was passed over because of issues with the main character's likeability. Maybe the long gestational period is in part to thank for the straight up love you have for Henry Andreas by the end. Or Maybe it's the steady vision of veteran director Bruce McDonald (Hardcore Logo), who came on board and got the movie in production in a hurry.

During the Q&A I was repeatedly struck by McDonald's graciousness. He stood literally just outside the spotlight in a white suit and crumpled cowboy hat, deflecting every question and compliment. When asked about the most difficult part of filming, he said it was easy because the Director of Photography, Daniel Grant, brought such cinematic insight to every scene (it IS well shot: artful without being arty). When asked about the strong story, McDonald credited editor Duff Smith for the lean, flowing final product. Typical of a McDonald's work, music is a huge factor in the film's emotional success, and he insisted composer Todor Kobakov stand for applause. Producers Cherilyn Hawrysh (Old Stock) and Dan Bekerman (my personal hero in Toronto production) were proud and professional-looking, and rounded out a bizarre fashion quartet -- did I mention McCabe-Lokos is wearing a brown three-piece corduroy suit?

The real feat of this film is what this visually incongruent team managed to accomplish: a difficult and unwavering tone. The movie is definitely a comedy -- I laughed my little teeth off -- but it's equally so a drama and at no point does either genre throw the other under the bus. The vision is strong, clear and, like The Husband himself, committed.

TIFF 2013 Red Carpet
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