EXPIRATION (director/writer/editor: Gavin Heffernan; cinematographers: Ben Dally/Sebastian Grobys; music: Jon Day; cast: Janet Lane (Rachel), Gavin Heffernan (Sam), Erin Simkin (Niki), Yetide Badaki (Naomi), Denise Depass (Julia), Paul Rogic (Jeremy), Christine Heffernan (Sam’s mom); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sebastian Grobys/Samantha Gutterman; Sunchaser Pictures; 2003-Canada)
“Has the freshness of youthful exuberance on its side.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Gavin Heffernan is the 23-year-old director-writer-editor and star of Expiration, making his directorial debut in a low budget indie released by the Canadian based Sunchaser Pictures. Mr. Heffernan takes us on a one night journey in the Fall (which in biblical terms relates to a loss of innocence) into the seedy parts of Montreal, as three troubled characters try to find their center against a series of life and death challenges. The initial crime story is jettisoned as the plotline gets stretched and new characters are introduced throughout. As a result, the film’s purpose becomes more of a character study than a crime thriller. Though suffering from a generous amount of missteps that include too pat of a resolution and unconvincing dramatizations and uninspiring acting, Expiration nevertheless has the freshness of youthful exuberance on its side and has honestly captured the spirit of the lost souls it portrays. It’s a fair start for the young filmmaker, Heffernan, who shows promise of more mature works in the future. The cast is made up of a mixture of professional and nonprofessionals, and though it has the look of an amateur production–that is not necessarily a bad thing for such a small film. It has the good sense not to strictly adhere to a typical Hollywood formulaic youth film as it shows too much grey matter, but it doesn’t have enough going to push the envelope and come up with a breakthrough story to give it more of a cutting edge.
Sam (Heffernan) while casually chatting finds out that longtime best friend Niki (Erin Simkin) is pregnant. Niki surprises him by dropping the bombshell that he’s the father and not her asshole ex-boyfriend, and even though Sam doesn’t love her he feels obligated to do the proper thing. Nice guy Sam finds his mother’s wedding ring packed away in storage, which she hasn’t worn in 17 years since her hubby abandoned the family, and plans to ask Niki to marry him as he takes her to a restaurant. But he chickens out. Out on the street Niki vomits up the red wine and the dutiful Sam goes into the all-night pharmacy to get her a Pepto-Bismol while she sleeps it off in the car. In the store, Sam’s robbed at gun point of his engagement ring. Also robbed is Rachel (Janet Lane), a drug courier transporting a drug stash worth a few thousand bucks. She is in grave danger from her scurvy drug pusher boss if she doesn’t drop the stuff off at the scheduled time. Since both want to retrieve their property, though obviously with different purposes and sense of urgency, they team up to go after the nervous perp who dropped a big clue before fleeing that helps in tracking him down.
The three characters get caught up in the stranger’s lives they come into contact with that night and with the ghosts from the past that are still haunting them. They believe that if they can somehow survive this dark night, the morning promises a sunnier future. The couple of convenience, from the convenience store, Rachel and Sam, in their search for the perp run into a Russian Roulette game played with one of the tubes to be injected containing contaminated HIV blood and later on meet an excitable junkie (Rogic) contemplating suicide from a tall building overlooking the downtown skyline while an opera aria is coming from a boom box. Through these transient meetings with such desperate characters, they find answers about themselves that have until this point eluded them. Those two vignettes just didn’t work, as they threw the rhythm off and seemed more like plot devices than real situations. In the meantime Niki awakens in the car and goes on her own dark journey, where she’s mistaken for a prostitute and beaten but is helped by a prostitute named Julia (Depass) and gets to meet her unhappy daughter Naomi (Badaki). Their painful uncommunicative relationship allows Niki to see the light about her twisted life and how she must change.
The lines that best get at the overreaching theme, in a melodrama that goes out its way to take a PC feminist viewpoint, come from Rachel and Naomi. Rachel tells the decent Sam that he “restored her faith in those that have penises.” Naomi tells Niki something she would like to tell her mother “Having a kid, doesn’t mean you’re not one.” These sentiments to openly communicate, reconcile things from the past and find a better meaning to their present lives, are searched for in the dark night with some amazing results. It was all rather absurd and the attempt to bridge the past with the present wasn’t accomplished in a fluid manner by the inexperienced filmmaker, but its sincerity overrides much of the ill-advised subplot ventures and its failure to come up with a larger meaning to its tale of woe.
REVIEWED ON 12/6/2003 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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