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Friday, March 6, 2009

One Week




Opens in limited Canadian release: March 6th, 2009

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

Running time: 97 minutes

Michael McGowan (dir.)

Cast: (in order of appearance)

Joshua Jackson as Ben Tyler

Peter Spence as Doctor

Gage Munroe as Young Ben

Liane Balaban as Samantha Pierce

Fiona Reid as Mary Tyler

Chuck Shamata as Gerald Tyler

Caroline Cave as Nancy Tyler

Campbell Scott as Narrator

Joshua Jackson as Ben in One Week.

Our reviews below:


One Week Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

“What would you do if you had one day, one week, or one month, to live?” Says the brilliant narration over the first scene of One Week. Ben Tyler has just learned he has stage-four cancer. Possessed by the urge to do what he feels he needs to do rather than what it would appear he should do, he sets out on what was meant to be a two-day motorcycle trip, but turns into a one week voyage for the west. From Toronto, Ontario to Tofino, British Columbia. As the rolls up rims on his Tim Horton's coffee cups, and tells some Newfoundland kids that he can’t assist them in finding the closest Canadian Tire, this is a very Canadian movie that probably won’t be watched across the border. But, in Canada it should be seen as a national treasure.

Every aspect of the film is Canadian. For once a film that has Toronto playing Toronto, and not standing-in for New York. The director, Michael McGowan, was born in Toronto, and also made Saint Ralph, which took place in Hamilton. Lead actors, Joshua Jackson and Lianne Balaban, are, respectively, from Vancouver and Toronto. The music, songs and score, are also all Canadian. The score, composed by Andrew Lockington who was born in Burlington, was recorded at the CBC on a piano that Glenn Gould played. There is a cameo by Canadian indie-folk artist Joel Plasskitt. You don’t get more Canadian than that.

The cinematography and scenery are breathtaking, and would make anyone appreciate our beautiful country. The aforementioned narrator works perfectly. Sometimes being profound and sometimes just mundane. I would place it as one of my favorite narration's, along with Stranger Than Fiction and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. We are told how one of Ben’s actions has unknowingly to him, affected and changed someone else's life, similar to the plot of a film like Magnolia. It makes us think that the choices the character is making are the right choices, even if they aren’t the obvious choice at the time.

One Week is at it’s heart a road movie, about one man taking a journey with his country. Canada is not just a background, but a second character, and it works wonderfully. Simple, yet profound, touching and moving, One Week is a timeless fable that should not be missed.


One Week Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

One Week is a very Canadian movie that is an inspiring piece of work. One Week tells the story of one week in the life of Ben, (Joshua Jackson), a man of in his 30’s engaged to be married, who finds out that he has cancer. Needing a break from everything, before becoming a patient, he spontaneously buys a motorcycle and what is intended to be 2 days to just get away from it all, becomes a quest to continue traveling west. Starting in Toronto, we see all kinds of Canadian landmarks along the way, as Ben journeys both across the country, and inside of himself.

The low key feeling of this movie was very fitting. The combination of the scenery, and the choices of songs made this movie something special. I believe that the director, Michael McGowan, said that he wanted to make a movie to show the beauty of this country, Canada. He has succeeded in showing the beauty of our country, as best as you can without seeing it for yourself. Watching this movie, as we travel with Ben across the country, it was amazing to see the contrast from the flat prairies to the rocky mountains. The depth in the theatre was amazing and there aren’t really words to describe seeing this wonderful country’s natural beauty on screen. I have never been out west myself, but it is one of my goals one day - to see this wonderful country from coast to coast myself.

I think what it was I loved about this movie was just watching everything together. The scenery, the landmarks, hearing the music, (original score by Andrew Lockington), and following this man’s journey across the country. He is looking for something that he must believe is there to have the strength to continue. I like the use of the narrator in this movie, sometimes narration doesn’t work, but here it does. We get a background of Ben’s life, not too much, but just enough to know where he’s at. The style of narration actually reminds me of the narrator in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It adds something being there, that is hard to make work, yet both of these films succeed. Especially here, the narrator becomes a character in himself. This being said, all of the actors are really good in One Week. Great work from everyone involved here.

To finish up, some movies are easier to write about then others, and others you just know how you feel about the movie. I know how I feel about this movie - this is a work of art that I hope will have a wider release, so that more can enjoy and experience it for themselves.


One Week Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

It is a real treat to see a film that is entirely Canadian. Such is the case with One Week. This movie is about Ben, a man who, in his prime, is diagnosed with cancer. He is terrified, and briefly contemplate suicide. (This scene is somewhat disturbing, so sensitive viewers may want to close their eyes.) When the reality of what is happening kicks in however, Ben decides to go on an adventure. His fiancée, Samantha, however, would rather Ben stay in Toronto, and start cancer treatment right away. Ben doesn’t listen. He isn’t ready to be a patient. So he buys a second hand motorcycle, and heads off to explore Canada. On his way, Ben is about to give up and head back, but two young men, and a “roll up the rim to win” Tim Horton’s cup saying “Go west young man,” encourage Ben to keep going west.

On his way, Ben sees many things. He visits all the big whimsical landmarks along the way, such as the Big Nickel in Sudbury. He also takes in the sheer beauty of nature, the trees, the vast wheat fields, the Northern Lights, the Pacific Ocean, and Canadian animals, such as elk, bears, moose, and humpback whales. Ben also meets people along the way, and every person Ben encounters is for a reason. Somehow, in some uncanny way, Ben is either touched by, or touches the life of each person he meets. When Ben finally returns home, he realizes what he really wants in life.

I really enjoyed this film. The narration, reminiscent of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and is perfect for One Week. Much of Ben’s narrated inner thoughts are hilarious, and add a light feel to the film. The scenery in this movie is breathtakingly beautiful, and the score by Andrew Lockington is very gentle, and fits the mood perfectly. This movie reminds us all to slow down, and look at the beauty around us. After seeing this movie, I can’t wait to check out the rest of Canada. This movie is a little known gem that should definitely be seen.


One Week Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

This movie is a real Canadian gem. The concept of what an individual would do if they knew they only had a short time to live in not unique. However, One Week is a uniquely Canadian look at the concept.

The movie opens with the main character Ben, (nicely played by Canadian actor Joshua Jackson), receiving a diagnosis of stage IV cancer. His first reaction is to imagine how he could end it all. Sensitive viewers might not like the close-up shot of his imagined death. This was the only part of the movie I didn’t like. His next response is to do what many of us might want to do - run. As he is running from the doctor’s office he stops at a garage where he decides to buy the second-hand motorcycle he had seen and thought about more then once. The movie gives us insight into Ben’s thoughts and his past through the use of a narrator. This device works really well in One Week. Some of the inner dialogue voiced by the narrator is laugh out loud funny without overshadowing the actual dialogue between the characters.

When Ben returns home from the doctor’s office with his new motorcycle, his fiancé Samantha, (also nicely played be Canadian actor Liane Balaban), tries to convince him to immediately start aggressive treatment of his cancer. However, Ben comes to the realization that he isn’t ready to be a patient yet and he needs to go on a motorcycle trip to sort out his thoughts. And in a typical Canadian moment, it’s when he ‘rolls up the rim’ of his Tim Horton’s coffee that he knows exactly what he needs to do - ‘Go west young man’.

Ben’s road trip from toronto to the west coast takes him to all sorts of Canadian tourist icons such as the Big Nickel and even a chance to kiss the Stanley Cup. The visuals on his roadtrip are beautiful. One Week has done a wonderful job in giving us a glimpse of how vast and beautiful Canada really is. The music be Canadian composer Andrew Lockington accompanies the trip in a nice low key way. I’m looking forward to the CD of this movie. Ben learns all sorts of things about himself and about what really matters on this roadtrip. The events that happen and the people he meets all connect and lead him and them exactly to where they need to be.

This movie is full of some really nice and some very funny moments. It never really moves into anything overly sentimental or sappy given the subject matter. The ending is satisfying and this viewer was left with a greater appreciation of Canada’s nature and character and the feeling that life really is meant to be experienced one moment at a time. I really like this movie and can’t wait to see it again. It makes me proud to be a Canadian and happy to be alive.


One Week Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson) is told he has cancer with a poor prognosis. He buys a vintage motorcycle and heads west. Throughout One Week, an offscreen voice narrates flashes of present thoughts and memories. Despite a nice fiancée Sam (Liane Balaban), a nice family and a decent if not ideal teaching job, Ben fears he never reached his potential This trip may be his last chance to take risks and experience “a lifetime each day” before entering treatment–effectively the end of life. Along the way from Toronto to Tofino, the people he meets affect him and he touches them in unexpected ways. An important supporting role is played by Canada’s magnificent scenery and quirky “world’s largest” landmarks, such as the Muskoka chair and Wawa goose, as well as iconic ones such as the Terry Fox monument and Stanley Cup.

I was previously not familiar with the work of Joshua Jackson, to my eyes a pleasant combination of Tobey MacGuire and Kiefer Sutherland. He pulls off this difficult role, often in closeups, with modest Canadian confidence. In her brief scenes, Liane Balaban is as good as we have come to expect. In their brief encounters with Ben the rest of the cast are all fine. The musical score featuring indie Canadian artists fits perfectly. Some original material by Andrew Lockington, based on keyboards, Irish pipes and wordless voices, is quite different from his previous symphonic score for City of Ember, whose main 5/4 theme reminded me of Mars by Holst. All the songs (not just clips) can be heard on the film website.

Just as in his previous film Saint Ralph, writer/director/producer Michael McGowan has shown that a well-told story from a specific place can have universal appeal. In his films, Canada is no stand in for Anywhere USA, with every licence plate taped over to hide its real location. Despite its tragic premise, One Week is too funny and life affirming to be depressing. A great Canadian film is the result.


Joshua Jackson 'rolling up the rim' as Ben in One Week.


Consensus: One Week is a film that celebrates being Canadian. Extremely well made, the acting, music and cinematography, etc. all work seamlessly together. Whether you're Canadian or not, this movie is worth seeing. If you get a chance, go see in theatres, if not, watch for it's release on DVD. **** (Out of 4)

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