The first ten minutes of “Bad Seeds” blurs by in a “Birdman” meets Shane Black series of unfortunate events: Jacques (Alexis Martin), a prominent actor, finds himself stumbling through a frigid Montreal winter, on the run from his bookie after him for his massive gambling debt. And having taken to the lamb directly after walking off stage, he’s wearing only his mid-century costume. So when Simon (Gilles Renaud) finds him, wandering in the cold, he has every intention of using this to his advantage. From there it’s a classic opposites attract buddy comedy, except Simon is a farmer who’s illegally growing marijuana in his barn, and blackmails Jacques into staying and helping him grow it.
What the film does well is display the budding camaraderie between the two of them without overplaying a lot more show than tell. Though their relationship is unusual and sometimes strained, there’s a honestly heartfelt ribbing and respect between the two. And that only gets better when Francesca (Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez), the meter reader sent to check on the power at the house, gets sucked into the operation, and their friendship is expanded into a family.
The movie becomes what so many dramedies are trying to be, a coming of age film under bizarre circumstances. It makes it look easy, to boot. The camera gives the actors—all of whom deliver nuanced portrayals of three types of loner—room to breathe, and evolve. Refreshingly, the script understands how to properly grow its characters, swinging neither too big nor too small with its scope. It roots its snarky comedy and eclectic soundtrack in the humanity of its characters, telegraphing a budding bond without ever spelling it out.
Its characters also manage to strike a sweet spot. None of them start out as irredeemable or too nasty, none of them are a stand-in for a world much larger than themselves. Each of them just have a way of seeing the world, and when three unstoppable forces run into each other they start to look an awful lot like an unorthodox family.
“Bad Seeds” is just the sort of movie that can make you believe in the indie dramedy formula again. While so many of these type of films find themselves in the quicksand of trying to tell a story that grabs too high or too low, “Bad Seeds” tells a simple if peculiar story about three people who finally find a way to make some changes in their life by growing some weed.
"Bad Seeds" screens Sept. 30 at 9:45 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown.
Three to see during French Cinema Now at SIFF (Sept. 29 — Oct. 6):
Made in France — Released in 2015, “Made in France” remains unfortunately contemporary, with its stirring portrayal of a journalist (Malik Zidi) infiltrating a terrorist cell in Paris. Taking a specific look at the disaffected youth joining Islamic extremist groups, the film is a thoughtful jaunt into a fictional, but imaginable thriller. Screens Oct. 1 at noon at SIFF Cinema Uptown.
The Outsider — Fan of last years “The Big Short?” Take a chance on “The Outsider” from Christophe Barratier, telling the true story of France’s greatest financial scandal. Not as seductive a figure as someone like Jordan Belfast, the movie follows the havoc caused by Jérôme Kerviel’s extravagant €5 billion gamble leading up to the 2008 mortgage crisis. Screens Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown.
Tomorrow — Director Mélanie Laurent and Cyril Dion take on the climate change, taking a closer look at some of the biggest environmental issues facing the world—and looking to leave its audience with a more hopeful note and a positive plan for building a better future. Screens Oct. 1 at 4:45 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown.