Teenagers. They think they know it all, don’t they? They have this unbearable self-righteousness. They can take a motorboat to testify about the dangers posed by oil tankers and not feel a little hypocritical, not even a bit. The big picture is missed. Kayak to Klemtu, Zoe Hopkins’ first feature, finds itself in the same quandary. Various problems arise, the characters deal with them as they come, and then the scene shifts to the next problem, without ever engaging with anything of significance.
I wished throughout that I got to know the characters. Too often, characters would appear solely to serve the plot or provide a moral question of some sort, and then disappear once they had set up that segment of the film. Discussions that would seem to be important often didn’t end up happening, whether it was the reason why the teenagers’ parents left Klemtu in favour of Vancouver, or why a mother and son never asked each other how they felt during their husband/father’s battle with cancer.
Those missing details pile quite high by the end of the film. By focusing so heavily on a crusade for environmental protection, Kayak to Klemtu misses the bigger picture. Paradoxically, the “bigger picture” here was one small family in mourning, looking for ways to cope with the loss of a loved one. Their journey takes a back seat to the film’s anti-pipeline, pro-conservation message, and it should have been the other way around.
With so many beautiful shots of the northern British Columbia coastline to be found in Kayak to Klemtu, the conservation message would not have been lost if the characters had been driving the film instead. If anything, the message would have been more impactful, as the onscreen journey through B.C.’s coastal waters argues more effectively in favour of conservation than a monologue ever could.