Set in the remote mountains of British Columbia, A Simple Curve tells the earnest yet engaging story of Caleb (Kris Lemche) - a young man who's arrived at a crossroads in his life. He can either follow in the footsteps of Jim (Michael Hogan), his father, and become an old-fashioned woodworker, or he can step out on his own and do something completely different. Complicating matters is the arrival of Matthew, an old family friend (played by Matt Craven), who has a lucrative offer for Caleb and Jim - though Caleb soon realizes that Jim's decades-old rivalry with Matthew could threaten the deal. Written and directed by Aubrey Nealon, A Simple Curve emphasizes atmosphere and character development over plot - a choice that absolutely works, thanks primarily to the better-than-expected performances and David Geddes' vivid cinematography (the film is packed with breathtaking shots of the B.C. landscape). There's a real sense of authenticity at work here, as Nealon nicely captures the vibe of small-town life. And though the film loses some of its focus towards the end with the emergence of a few predictable and overly melodramatic plot developments, there's absolutely no denying the effectiveness of Lemche's sincere, honest performance.
--Unknown/ Reel Film Reviews - Review
February 3, 2006
By Peter Howell
The tree story illustrates the knotty problem of reconciling grand granola intentions with human nature.
As recounted in A Simple Curve, B.C. writer/director Aubrey Nealon's wonderfully observed first feature, it's the moment where aging hippie carpenter Jim (Michael Hogan) and his 1960s bong buddy Matthew (Matt Craven) are trading memories about a camping trip and an errant cedar.
The tree was cut and supposed to fall away from the tepee shared by Jim, Matthew and the woman who would become the mother of Caleb (Joan of Arcadia's Kris Lemche), the wide-eyed listener to this campfire tale. Instead the tree followed the direction that too much Bud — and bud — can lead to.
Matthew tells the anecdote with great hilarity. An annoyed Jim, however, recalls the incident as the moment when his erstwhile fellow dreamer Matt, both of them American draft dodgers, gave up on their Utopian plan to settle amongst the mountains, waters and forests of B.C.'s majestic Slocan Valley.
Jim stayed in the region, marrying Caleb's mom and raising his son to be as good a woodworker as he is. Matthew went off to the big city to make his fortune in business as an ecotourism entrepreneur.
When Matthew returns to the valley one day, flying his own seaplane, it's at a momentous time for Jim and Caleb. The mother is dead and the business is floundering due to Jim's perfectionism and cranky refusal to compromise for commercial gain. Caleb can't figure out how to get through to this father, who acts as if flower power never wilted.
Caleb is just 27, although he's old beyond his years. He refers to himself as "nearly 30." He respects his father's determination to maintain standards of craftsmanship, but he also realizes that people can't afford $600 for a superb chair when other local carpenters are willing to make an adequate one for half the price.
"It's a chair!" a frustrated Caleb tells his father.
"It's a choice!" Jim shoots back.
When Matthew offers a chance for the duo to earn some real money, making chairs for his planned new fishing lodge, Caleb jumps at the chance. But can he admit to Jim that he's accepted a helping hand from Matthew?
Tangling the tofu are the arrival of two latter-day hippies (Kett Turton and Sarah Lind) who can't see the forest for the trees, and the romantic intentions of a single mom (Pascale Hutton) who thinks Caleb needs some unknotting of his own.
As richly written and directed as it is photographed and acted, A Simple Curve is anything but a facile look at the father-son relationship or the end of the hippie dream. It is rooted in Nealon's own back-to-the-earth upbringing, and the conversations and issues in the script are in his experiences.
It never stoops to conquer, or resorts to cheap laughs, although it has an abundance of gentle humour. A Simple Curve possesses wisdom that is rare for film these days, let alone a debut.
--Peter Howell/ Toronto Star - Review
By Ken Eisner
A refreshing take on an overused theme -- dysfunctional father-son connections -- starts gently and gets more compelling as it glides along like a woodworker's sharpened plane over smooth surfaces. Provincial settings make this a tough urban sell, but a clever distrib might be able to reach older and more rural auds on both sides of the border with this beautifully shot ode to country life, limitations and all.
Kris Lemche ("Joan of Arcadia") gets an impressive workout as Caleb, a handsome, articulate 27-year-old who hasn't yet been able to break away from home. Context is the only thing conveying the fact that woodworking partner Jim (Michael Hogan) is actually his dad; the pic is more than half over before any family beans are spilled.
Caleb's innate restlessness is exacerbated when perfectionist Jim turns down lucrative but aesthetically dubious work in a dwindling market. Then Jim's old friend and rival Matthew (Matt Craven) flies his own aircraft into the remote Slocan Valley, looking to build a luxury lodge and stir up trouble for Jim, who has stayed true to their hippie ways.
Caleb has recently struck up a tentative relationship with a pretty single mom (Pascale Hutton), but she finds him something of a flight risk -- as is made more apparent when a couple of granola types (Kett Turton, Sarah Lind) pitch a teepee on his land, new and old relationships muddy the waters.
Pic's thesping is uniformly strong but not pushy, with helmer Aubrey Nealon's dialogue sharply amusing without resorting to sitcom wisecracks.
Equally affecting is David Geddes' aerial lensing, which takes viewers high above the gorgeous Kootenays, with sparse music providing needed mood lifts.
Open ending is quietly satisfying; it's difficult to believe Nealon's hands have not been calloused by making features before this elegant gem.
--Ken Eisner/ Variety - Review