I have been avoiding writing this review all weekend, and it was a long weekend. Which is kind of meaningless now since February 26th. It’s all been one looooong weekend. I didn’t even mean to watch this movie but Netflix crowned it #1 in Canada so I thought I’d better hop on the snow mobile (which is the Canadian expression for jumping on the bandwagon).
Anyway, it’s super bad.
It’s about a guy, Alec (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who is both a womanizer and a gambler and he’s in quite a bit of a pickle over both of those things, but I’d hazard a guess that the Russian mobsters are the most menacing. So let’s call it convenient when a long lost uncle he’s never met (Jonathan Pryce, bewilderingly) shows up out of nowhere and offers him escape. If Alec agrees to spend one year living in tiny fishing village Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the uncle he’s never met before will pay off all his debts, solve all of his problems. Alec isn’t super keen but is also out of options, so he hops a plane to Halifax and hopes for the best.
Once in Canada, this same uncle has a home already waiting for him, and a car, so all that’s left is to set up shop with the only skill he has, fixing electronics. But the next day he finds that the villagers have misinterpreted his intentions and they’re visiting in droves hoping ‘The Healer’ can repair not their VCRs but their ailments.
This movie is insulting on many levels, not least of which is the entire Atlantic ocean’s worth of suspension of disbelief you’ll need to swallow any of it. And then you’ll be insulted on behalf of Maritimers who are quite reasonable people and would make use of our excellent universal health care rather than lining up at a strange handyman’s house, begging for him to lay hands on them, unwilling to believe it’s a misunderstanding, furious that he won’t at least try.
It’s crazy and disappointing on many other levels as well. I’m not sure why good, salt of the earth, church-going people would gobble up what’s tantamount to witchcraft. I can’t imagine why parents would leave their seriously ill child with a strange man who has a strange reputation, unsupervised, for an entire weekend. Or why anyone would use sexual orientation as a shield. Or how anyone would so grossly misinterpret the lyrics and meaning of George Michael’s Faith.
But most of all, I can’t understand the motivation behind dedicating this seemingly random movie to the memory of Paul Newman. The director assures us it’s because Newman worked tirelessly and charitably for kids sick with cancer. And this movie…suggests that the cure may be in the hands of a sexaholic with a charming British accent who apparently is just withholding it from all but Nova Scotians…because why? It’s a dangerous message to put out there: it’s not science, it’s not religion, it’s just plain old fashioned magic, and if you don’t know a magician, you’re just shit out of luck.