A revelatory experience: going to the theatre to see Passchedaele
with my friend Lisa, it was, on our arrival, sold out.
Not something one expects of a Canadian movie. So we bought tickets for a later showing, which was itself pretty full. So, if the goal was to attract a decent-sized audience in Canada, anecdotally they're off to a good start.
As to the film itself; the setting covers most of 1917, after the Battle of Vimy Ridge and leading to the Second Battle of Passchendaele, although most of the movie is actually set on the home front, in Calgary (Lisa, being from Calgary, remarked on the way home how weird it was to recognize most of the scenery and "they weren't even trying to pretend it was, like, North Dakota or some other western place"). The film opens with the main character, Sgt. Michael Dunne (Paul Gross, writer/director/producer/actor), serving in France; after a brief fight that leaves him injured (physically and mentally), he returns home and is reassigned to recruitment. Back home, he attempts to romance a local nurse Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas, from Wonderfalls
), whose brother David has asthma, but desperately wants to enlist in order to win the approval of his girlfriend's father (and also for another reason, which I won't mention here, since it's a twist). Eventually, everybody ends up back in France in time for the battle.
Overall, I'd say it's a pretty good effort (and, for a Canadian film, there weren't any moments where they appeared to be insufficiently budgeted, which is a feat in an of itself), although the tone of the production is inconsistent; some parts (the love story, principally) are very sentimental, while others (the battle scenes, which may be the most realistic depiction of World War I trench combat that I've yet seen, as well as a lot of the depiction of wartime homefront society) are determinedly unsentimental (there are at least two moments involving corpses that either must have been described in a letter or else Gross has a very disturbed imagination). The actors are all very good, Dhavernas in particular being lovely and quite believable.