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Friday, June 19, 2009

Victoria Day Review

Victoria Day - An E1 FIlms Release


Release Date: June 19th, 2009

Rated 14A for coarse language and sexual content

Running time: 88 minutes

David Bezmozgis (dir.)

David Bezmozgis (writer)

Lesley Barber (music)

Mark Rendall as Ben Spektor

Holly Deveaux as Cayla Chapman

John Mavro as Sammy Balaban

Scott Beaudin as Noah Hartsman

Melanie Leishman as Melanie

Nataliya Alyexeyenko as Mila Spektor

Sergiy Kotelenets as Yuri Spektor

Mark Rendall and Holly Deveaux in Victoria Day - an E1 Films

Our reviews below:


Victoria Day Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

The year is 1988, the city is Toronto, Victoria Day is a coming of age story about Ben (Mark Rendall) a 16 year old star hockey player. One night when he’s at a Bob Dylan concert with his friends, Sammy and Noah (John Mavro and Scott Beaudin), his hockey rival, Jordan, asks him for five dollars to buy drugs. Ben gives him the money, and ends up being the last person to have seen him. Shortly after the concert, he goes missing.

It becomes more complex when Ben starts to fall in love with Jordan's 15 year old sister Cayla (Holly Deveaux). With the pressure of having to play in the hockey finals, Ben takes a week-and-a-half journey into maturity, set against a backdrop of watching the Stanley cup finals on the CBC and listening to Bob Dylan and other music from the ‘60’s.

I found the film to be very emotionally connecting and real. They’re all genuine and really likable characters. The acting by the young cast is excellent, natural and very believable.

Adventureland was another coming-of-age film that came out this year and took place in the late ‘80’s. I liked Adventureland, but this is definitely a stronger film.

The movies wonderfully retro soundtrack works perfectly, with Bob Dylan’s song “Dark Eyes” being the recurring theme. Over the credits, there is an excellent cover of the song courtesy of Sam Roberts and his band.

I loved every second of this Canadian indie-film. Watching Victoria Day is almost like reading a great book. We can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next, but are disappointed when it’s over. Try and go see it in theatres, and if you can’t, make sure you get the DVD. Either way, Victoria Day should not be missed.


Victoria Day Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Victoria Day takes place in Toronto, in 1988. It is shortly before the Victoria Day weekend, and Ben, (Mark Rendall), is wrapping up his hockey season, when after a Bob Dylan concert at Ontario Place, his hockey ‘rival’ Jordan disappears. Ben feels partially guilty, as he was one of the last ones to see him before the concert, after loaning him five dollars to buy drugs. As the days after Jordan’s disappearance go on, things become more complicated for Ben as he helps in search parties to try to find his missing teammate. Through all of this, there is a budding romance that is happening between him and Jordan’s sister.

Victoria Day is a film that despite being set in Canada, I think would be pretty universal. It is a story that most people, especially teenagers, are going to relate to. It is a coming of age story. Set in the 1980’s, I can see some people comparing this movie to the recent American film, Adventureland, especially when first going in. Here is what I have to say about that: I saw Adventureland, and despite both being about teens in the 80’s, I wouldn’t really see much need to compare them. I found Adventureland to be an all right film, although it didn’t really know what it was trying to be at times. Essentially, Victoria Day, I felt, was the opposite. Unlike Adventureland, Victoria Day actually feels believable. It is a very well made film. Everything about Victoria Day just works. The storyline is handled well, with credit going to David Bezmozgis - director/writer of the film - and the young lead actors.

A couple of things that I think led to this kind of believability, was that Ben’s parents, while they can speak English, talk to him in Russian, with him answering them in English. This is true to a lot of immigrant families. Also, nothing about this movie seems farfetched. There aren’t any unbelievable, convoluted, ‘yeah, right’ circumstances, like we often see from Hollywood these days. The music, a lot of which is centered around the Bob Dylan song Dark Eyes, kept the feel of the movie in the 80’s. Essentially, there is nothing in this film that would throw you out of the film by standing out like it shouldn’t be in there.

This being said, if you get the chance, go see Victoria Day, while it is still in theatres. It is a well-made Canadian film that I think will be accessible to a wide audience.


Victoria Day Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Victoria Day is a very believable Canadian drama about a 16 year old boy in Toronto. Set in 1988, this story revolves around Ben Spektor, an ordinary teenager born to Russian immigrant parents. Ben is a popular kid, playing on the local hockey team. When Ben, and his friends, Sammy and Noah, go to a Bob Dylan concert at Ontario Place, Ben runs into his hockey rival, Jordan. Jordan asks Ben for drug money, and Ben reluctantly gives him five dollars. Later on, news gets out that Jordan has gone missing. Ben feels guilty about giving Jordan the money, and is afraid to tell anyone. Things get more complicated when Ben finds himself falling in love with Jordan’s sister Cayla. How will Ben be able to deal with his secret, when everyone wants to know what went down on the day of the concert? Victoria Day shows us how one frightening event affects various people’s live.

Victoria Day is a very well made film. The story is realistic, and the acting is very genuine. We believe the characters, and care about their lives. One thing that worked is that the cast consisted of real teenagers some of whom are still in school, rather than made up elderly people. Lesley Barber’s quiet underscore fits the low key tone of the film, without overshadowing the acting or storyline. Victoria Day is worth seeing and would be a good choice to show in high schools.


Victoria Day Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Victoria Day is a very believable, well written, solidly acted, Canadian film. Set in Toronto in 1988 the story focuses on high school hockey player Ben Spektor (Mark Rendall) and the life changing events that take place prior to Victoria Day weekend.

When the movie first opens, Ben’s life revolves around his hockey games and hanging out with his buddies Sammy (John Mavro) and Noah (Scott Beaudin). Things start to change when the three friends attend a Bob Dylan concert at Ontario Place. Ben reluctantly lends his hockey rival, Jordan Chapman, five dollars to complete a drug deal at the concert. Jordan goes missing after the concert and Ben is plagued with guilt.

The community sets up search parties for Jordan and Ben finds himself torn between living his life with hockey and friends as though nothing had happened and sharing what he know about Jordan’s disappearance.

Ben’s struggle with his guilt and his questioning of what is important to him is what made this movie so strong for me. Ben has to deal with the realization that his hockey career means more to his Russian immigrant parents, especially his father, than it does to him. The scenes between Ben and his parents, mostly in Russian with English subtitles, are really nice to watch. The other complication for Ben is his budding romance with Jordan’s sister, Cayla (Holly Deveaux).

Through all of this Ben tries to keep his life as normal as possible and so goes with his friends Sammy and Noah to shoot fireworks for Victoria Day. The fireworks scene is fun to watch and pivotal to the storyline.

Overall, Victoria Day is a good movie from start to finish. The soundtrack is a good mix of sixties through eighties music with a remix of Bob Dylan’s Dark Eyes being a recurring theme. Director/writer David Bezmozgis deserves recognition for this solid film production.

Check this one out in theatres. It’s a good Summer choice for teenagers and adults, especially Torontonians.


Victoria Day Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Ben Spektor (Mark Rendall) is a high school junior in 1988. Like many children of immigrants (myself included), when his parents talk to him in their native language (Russian) he always replies in English. Having settled on a living as a masseur, his father Yuri (Sergiy Kotelenets) has greater ambitions for his son as a pro hockey player like Wayne Gretzky. Ben is good at hockey, but he also likes 1960’s music which he shares with schoolmates during morning announcements. Though he has started dating, he still enjoys childish antics with pals Sammy (John Mavrogiannis) and Noah (Scott Beaudin), such as a mock battle with bootleg Roman candles. At an Ontario Place Bob Dylan concert he reluctantly lends $5 to a teammate for drugs. When this boy goes missing, Ben feels partly responsible, which he has to admit to the boy’s sister Cayla (Holly Deveaux), whom he really likes.

Victoria Day is a welcome addition to the coming of age short stories written by director David Bezmozgis. Born in Latvia to Jewish parents, he grew up in the 1980s in the north end of what is now Toronto, a neighbourhood enriched by many Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This is a typically low-key real-life Canadian film, where nothing spectacular happens and there is no clear resolution, but with a good script and fine acting it is a memorable story. Along with Adoration and À L’Ouest De Pluton, it should get a lot of high school exposure in upcoming Reel Canada programs.


Scott Beaudin, Mark Rendall and John Mavro in Victoria Day - an E1 Films release


Consensus: Victoria Day is a well-made, believable Canadian film. Due to it’s storyline, and execution, this film will be accessible to a wide audience. ***3/4 (Out of 4)

Mark Rendall and Sergiy Kotelenets in Victoria Day - an E1 Films release

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