Sunday, March 9: 9:30: THE HUSBAND Director: Bruce McDonald
Canada, 2013 80 mins. Cast: Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, August Diehl, Sarah Allen
The latest from Canadian maverick Bruce McDonald, The Husband is a fresh, unique and gutsy black comedy about impotent male rage and the limits of compassion. Henry, the hero of McDonald’s film, is having a really bad year. His wife, Alyssa, a former teacher, is in jail for sleeping with a 14-year-old student, forcing Henry to raise their infant son alone. He loathes his ad agency job, and his co-workers even more. Moreover, the burden of single parenting has essentially cut him off from his friends and left him to stew. As Alyssa’s release looms, Henry finds it increasingly difficult to contain himself.
The Husband is defiantly unpredictable. We’re never quite sure where the film is headed, but we know there’s a strong chance it isn’t someplace good. Yet we watch, transfixed, as Henry approaches an undefined point of no return, primarily because it’s hard not to empathize with him on some level, but also because of the astonishing performance of co-writer and star Maxwell McCabe-Lokos. Hunched over, always infuriated and in a rush, Henry is part golem and part speed freak, furiously trying to escape his own anger. McCabe-Lokos is aided by Sarah Allen as the baffling yet sympathetic Alyssa; noted German actor August Iehl (Inglourious Basterds) as Henry’s lone remaining friend; and the iconic Stephen McHattie as Alyssa’s understanding father. Keeping all of these elements under control is McDonald, who turns in his most subtle job of direction to date.
With its sly humour and increasingly frenzied characters, The Husband borrows elements of Italian sex comedies from the 1960s while taking aim at more serious subjects. Guilt may be—as Susan Sontag once suggested—the most useless, unproductive emotion, but chances are that jealousy, leavened with macho rage, comes a close second.