(director/writer: Donald Shebib; screenwriter: William Fruet/story by Fruet; cinematographer: Richard Leiterman; editor: Donald Shebib; music: Bruce Cockburn; cast: Doug McGrath (Peter), Paul Bradley (Joey), Jayne Eastwood (Betty), Cayle Chernin (Selina), Pierre LaRoche (Frenchy), Nicole Morin (Nicole), Sheila White (girl in record shop); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Donald Shebib; Chevron Pictures; 1970-Canada)

“I enjoyed it but probably would have been into it more if I saw it back in the 1970s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Canadian Donald Shebib (“Between Friends”/”Rip-Off”) was only 28 when he made this sparkling road film drama. The small-budget film was made for a mere $78,000. It’s based on a story by William Fruet, who co-writes it with Shebib. It’s about disgruntled young workers in a small town looking for a better life in the big city. Critics have held it for many years in esteem as one of the best Canadian movies ever. It’s amazing how well the film has dated, as it still seems relevant with today’s ‘millennials.’ As for an old-timer like me, I enjoyed it but probably would have been into it more if I saw it back in the 1970s.

The film was partially financed by the Canadian Film Development Corp., as well as Phoenix Films

Best friends Peter (Doug McGrath) and Joey (Paul Bradley), two twenty-somethings who are not too brainy, leave the maritime region in Nova Scotia in their beat-up decorated Chevy and head for Toronto. Unable to find the streets lined with gold and women to party with, the affable lads to survive must take dead-end factory jobs at a soda bottling plant and live in a tiny apartment. Life here is not any better for them than it was in Nova Scotia.

Peter is depicted as the ambitious type, wanting material success and to live a fast life. Joey as the homespun guy, content to be married and have a steady job.

Betty (Jayne Eastwood) is the waitress Joey meets and knocks up, whose little screen time nevertheless gives the flick its brightest moments.

Though most scenes were quickly forgettable, the ones that stick-out are when the lads go to the hip A&A record store on Yonge, that high energy awkward wedding banquet for Betty and when the lads really enjoy themselves catching  a maritime singer in one of the local bars.

When the lads eventually turn to a life of crime, their dreams of a carefree existence are over and with all their failures and debts mounting up while in Toronto, the only escape for them is to hit the road again.

Fueled by the first-rate directing job and outstanding performances by the leads (the reason the flick is often referred to as a gem by its ardent admirers) who out-perform their stereotypical roles, the derivative film is good at telling us about the plight of the working-class who are stuck in dead-end jobs because they lack the career skills to land key jobs in industry.