starring Ally Maki, Luke Roberts, Nyha Breitkreuz, Chris Pang
written and directed by Meredith Hama-Brown
by Bill Chambers I always brace for gloom when out come the tiny title fonts--in Canada, they're the cinematic equivalent of a funeral director solemnly gesturing towards the casket--but Meredith Hama-Brown's FIPRESCI-winning Seagrass quickly dispelled my cynicism by being so obviously good. Judith (Ally Maki) and Steve (Luke Roberts) are a mixed-race couple with two young daughters, 11-year-old Stephanie (Nyha Breitkreuz) and six-year-old Emmy (Remy Marthaller). Theirs is a troubled marriage, complicated by the recent death of Judith's mother, and so they've travelled with the kids to a couples retreat on the Pacific coast for therapy and respite. There, they meet their mirror image in Pat (Chris Pang) and Carol (Sarah Gadon), handsome marrieds who appear to be farther along in their reconciliation. (Either that, or they're better at presenting a united front.) Judith regards Pat with undeniable yet enigmatic interest and Steve picks up on it, creating a lopsided tension between the two men. But gradually, from the nature of Judith's complaints about Steve--how he never wants to go anywhere exotic; how he doesn't seem to appreciate the depths of her grief, or comprehend her nostalgia for a childhood that sounds like it was mired in hardship--it becomes clear that whatever her physical attraction to Pat, he's thrown Steve's whiteness and all that that implies into stark relief. (Because it's set in the 1990s, unenlightened Steve falls easily into syllogistic traps like asking how he could be a racist when he has a Japanese wife, while Judith lacks the language of rebuttal.) She looks at Pat and wonders, perhaps, if an Asian partner would make her feel less conspicuous. Less ashamed. Less alone.