Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nurse Fighter Boy

Directed by Charles Officer

I haven't really been watching many movies lately - when I go to my local Blockbuster, it takes me forever to find something that I think might interest me, and I'm usually disappointed. I usually find that I don't have enough time to make it Queen Video, or one of the other decent stores in the city, since none of them are near to me.

I was pleased, therefore, when I came across a copy of Nurse Fighter Boy for rental in my neighbourhood. I remember seeing a positive review of it in the paper when the movie was released, and I have like Clark Johnson since back in the day, when I watched him on Homicide Life on the Streets.

The film is a perfect example of a local indie film, meaning it has lengthy quiet moments where my attention wandered, or I found myself fixating on small items on set, or studying the actor's faces. This can be a problem for some viewers, but I find that kind of thing heightens my enjoyment of a movie.

The film is about three people. Jude (Karen LeBlanc) is a nurse and single mother (although not so much in that order) who is battling a disease. She is working the night shift, which causes her to leave her twelve year old son Ciel (Daniel J. Gordon) alone through the evening. While working one night, Jude meets Silence (Johnson), an aging fighter who has taken to competing in illegal pit events as his only means of supporting himself. When Silence's old friend Horace (Walter Borden) dies, he takes over his boxing gym, and sets about improving his life.

The story is a small, quiet one. These three people begin, slowly and hesitantly to interact with one another. The centre of the film is the relationship between Jude and Ciel. He has grown up without a father, and with the knowledge of his mother's disease, both maturing him quickly and leaving him grasping for a mystical means of protecting her.

The performances in the film are powerful. Johnson's character lives up to his name, a vast difference from the more loquacious Meldrick Lewis I still picture Johnson as (even after his role on The Wire). LeBlanc shows equal measures of strength and fear, and Gordon delivers an incredible performance for a young actor. He displays a number of complicated emotions, and a magical spark beneath his mop of hair.

The best thing about the movie though, is the music. Ciel plays his mother a mixture of traditional Jamaican songs, reggae, and hip-hop from the likes of K'naan and Tumi and the Volume. I would love to get ahold of the soundtrack for this film (any link I found on-line appears to have died).

It's nice to see Toronto represented so well on screen. Great stuff.

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