In the search for quintessential Canadian films, there is a formula to produce such films. The film takes place in a small town; there are several stories in the film; there are quite a few identifiable Canadian actors; there is an insider/outsider theme; and there is almost no violence of significance. Wilby Wonderful would score very high on this formula.
Daniel MacIvor wrote and directed Wilby Wonderful (2004) and has a small acting role as well. We've sung the praises of MacIvor's writing skills from Marion Bridge to Trigger to Weirdos. MacIvor takes us to Wilby Island where a scandal is brewing as the municipal festival is coming together and a man is trying to find ways to kill himself.
Carol French (Sandra Oh) plays a Type A realtor who is organizing an upcoming celebration. Buddy French (Paul Gross) is her husband, a local cop who is fooling around with free-spirited Sandra Anderson (Rebecca Jenkins). Sandra's daughter Emily (Ellen Page) is discovering a boy who is putting a lot of pressure on her. Duck MacDonald (Callum Keith Rennie) is the local painter/handyman who takes an interest in Dan Jarvis (James Allodi), the guy who is trying to kill himself.
You may not recognize Jenkins by name, but she played Sarah Polley's mother Diane in her documentary Stories We Tell.
MacIvor takes us into these people's lives bouncing between stories over a 24-hour period. Though there is tension in the story, the film is very quiet. Though the film is quiet, you do find yourself easily integrated into the story.
If you've seen Double Happiness, the contrast of Oh's character being upset with Rennie's character is a contrast to the lovebirds they were in Double Happiness.
Often, MacIvor's work feels like plays since theatre is his background. The characters, flaws and all, feel very real. MacIvor's character in the film thinks he is doing the right thing, but he is full of flaws.
The film title centers on incorrect signs for the festival that was supposed to say "Wonderful Wilby." Buddy French in the film thinks it's sounds better backward. This is an apt metaphor. The film works because things aren't quite right and does so in a very entertaining fashion.
video credit: YouTube/CG Entertainment
photo credit: Wilby Wonderful