The Canadian Patient
For many Paul Gross will always be remembered as Constable Benton Fraser in "Due South" but there is more strings to this Canadian actor's bow as he wrote, directed and starred in "Passchendaele" a movie which is not only personal to him but also highlights the Canadian's participation during WWI. I say personal as Gross's grandfather was a WWI veteran who at times recalled events during WWI such as one incident where he ran a bayonet through the skull of a young German and it is these events including a hard hitting bayonet scene which make up "Passchendaele". But at the same time "Passchendaele" is not just about the war but also about the people in the war from a nurse in Canada with a German father to her asthmatic brother desperate to prove himself a man. I won't say that "Passchendaele" is the greatest movie of all time but Gross has crafted an insightful as well as entertaining movie which mixes war with human interested and a lashing of romance.
In many ways it is impossible to give a synopsis for "Passchendaele" because it covers numerous characters, numerous relationships whilst also covering various battles and much more. But the movie introduces us to Michael Dunne in the middle of war where we get the shocking scene as he looks a German soldier in his blue eyes and rams a bayonet through his skull. We see how following this an injury leaves him shell shocked and sent back home where he is diagnosed as being unfit to return to the front line although some think he is a coward. It is here he meets nurse Sarah Mann who not only has a secret drug habit but is dealing with the fact that her father is a German who returned to Germany to fight and died in battle. And then we have Sarah's brother who suffers from asthma and is determined to be a patriot and go off to fight. What goes on from there mixes romantic drama with personal drama and war drama.
The thing about all of this is that whilst it sways from romance to war it does a fantastic job of bringing to the fore the human aspect of war. We see how for Michael what he witnesses leaves him a broken man, through David we get the pressure to be a patriot despite his ill health and we also see how Sarah struggles with her heritage. It makes it so easy to become involved with each of these characters and feel a connection with them.
Because "Passchendaele" ends up more about the human side of war it is not the most action packed war movie out there but it still has some nicely choreographed war scenes. In fact I have to say that Gross has an eye for a scene and a good skill for writing drama, whether it is best suited to war dramas is another matter as the look and style does veer towards being better suited for romantic melodrama. The scenes in Canada when Michael returns are simply beautiful with a quality about them which reminded me of "Legends of the Fall" but they seem too romanticized for a movie which is a war drama.
As for the acting well I am going say upfront that I have seen better performances but Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas and Joe Dinicol all do a good job in their rolls. And if truth be told if "Passchendaele" was purely a romantic melodrama I would be more inclined to praise their performances.
What this all boils down to is that "Passchendaele" is not the greatest movie you will ever watch but it is most certainly worth a watch with Paul Gross showing a keen eye for a look and a skill for crafting a story.
Tags: World War I