Monday, February 13, 2012

Viff '12: Donovan's Echo, Existentialism and Searching for Patience: A Movie Review

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Director: Jim Cliffe.

Writers: Jim Cliffe, and Melodie Krieger.

Cast: Danny Glover, Bruce Greenwood and Natasha Calis.

Donovan's Echo was the final film to show at the Victoria Film Festival and this is a "psychological thriller" starring Danny Glover as director Jim Cliffe mentioned. This was a late showing on a Sunday night and this critic was looking for a few more thrills in Cliffe's movie debut. The director intentionally made the film in such a way to build the tension until the final climax.

There is no doubt that this is an above average film; however, there could have been more conflict in the early parts of the film. That aside, the story begins with Glover as Donovan, a retired physicist. Donovan had worked on the Manhattan Project, the experiment to develop the atomic bomb. Along the way, Donovan had also delved into cold fusion, but now he is just a stock boy at the local grocery story. His premonitions still make him extraordinary and he is able to save a life or two, but are these actual foretellings or are they Donovan's reflections on his past life after his death?

The answer to this question depends on the viewer. This film fan was not really interested in the existentialism and really, more coffee was needed to stay awake through the whole film. Thankfully, this is a non-conventional non-commerical film. Shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Donovan's Echo really needed more conflict early. The only antagonist in the film is introduced late in the film to some dramatic effect. Then, he is outroduced five minutes later. The conflict is with Donovan and what is real. Yet, the early parts of the film are a really slow burn and this style of filmmaking will not please everyone. But what film ever pleases everyone?
After the screening, the director and producer Trent Carlson answered a few brief questions. Cliffe informed the crowd that Donovan's Echo was filmed in Fort Langley, British Columbia, the script won awards and the development of the first draft took over a year. As well, this title will release in select Canadian cities February 24th including: Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. There was also a strange question regarding actor Danny Glover's health: "is Danny Glover alright? He looks a little thin." There is always a little awkwardness when filmmakers address the general movie going crowd and this night was no different.

Overall, this film is for a select crowd of drama fans who are not frightened off by themes of spirituality, life and death, and that strange but common experience of déjà vu. The pacing is slow and the film concentrates on two main characters: Donovan (Glover) and Finnley (Bruce Greenwood). There is no doubt that this an above average drama; however, there could have been more focus on more physical antagonists rather than Donovan simply facing the grief and the loss of his wife and daughter thirty years after the fact. Not whole heartedly endorsed nor completely dismissed, this is a small film that will find an audience with those looking for something off the beaten path and travel on this path is only for those who enjoy a slow pace.

Overall: 6.75 out of 10 (good writing, lots of connections in the script, small film, could have used another main character or two, questions of existentialism, high production values).

*partially funded by Telefilm Canada.

Another review of this film at Quiet Earth (Chris Webster):

Donovan's Echo at QE

The film's fan page w/showing dates:

Donovan's Echo on Facebook

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