The Valley Below
Albertan Director Kyle Thomas weaves together the story of four people living in Drumheller in his debut feature film, The Valley Below.
The four character’s stories are told through self-contained vignettes, following their struggles as the film progresses. Kate (Mikaela Cochrane) is about to leave her small-town life and small-town boyfriend behind to go off to university when she discovers she’s pregnant. Warren (Kris Demeanor) is a musician with an alcohol problem that has cost him his wife and daughter. Gordon (Stephen Bogaert) struggles to connect with his wife as he meanders his way through a marriage gone stale. And Barry (Alejandro Rae) is a police constable, deeply affected by the actions of his friends, and who harbours a secret life. The stories converge in interesting and natural ways in the diners or bowling alleys of Drumheller, capital of the Alberta Badlands.
This is a stand-out work for a number of reasons. Despite the fact that many films now use the intersection of seemingly disparate characters as a plot device (think Crash), Thomas’s characters intersect with ease, and nothing seems corny or contrived. The cinematography beautifully captures the sometimes stifling feel of the Albertan landscape, and the music of Canadian artists like Dan Mangan and Demeanor himself sets the tone and mood perfectly.
But the main reason the film succeeds so well is because Thomas has created characters that we all know and can relate to. These aren’t pastiches of small town personalities; the actors embody the roles in such a realistic way as to become our friends and neighbours. Those of us who have lived in small town Canada will especially find resonance with this work, because we know these people and have lived through their struggles. The film is a phenomenal addition to the contemporary Canadian cinematic landscape. (Cameron Bryant)
Sunday, September 7th, 9:30pm, Scotiabank 2
Monday, September 8th, 8:30am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Friday, September 12th, 2:45pm, Scotiabank 2