On Friday I screened 1981, starring Jean-Carl Boucher and Claudio Colangelo.
In 1981, the Trogi family moved to a nicer home, which meant they had to make do with less to afford it. Ricardo (Boucher) was 11 years old at the time and found the change to be very disruptive.
Ricardo's parents were good, blue-collar people who only wanted the best for their two children (Ricardo also had a younger sister). They worked long hours and extra jobs to earn enough to provide for their kids.
Ricardo was typical in the sense that he just wanted what every other boy was entitled to—a new gadget called a Walkman, and of course the latest clothes that would help him look good for his crush, one-time tutor Anne Tremblay.
He narrates the film for us in a humorous, honest way in the spirit of the Wonder Years. He shows us how he manipulates his parents into giving him things, obsesses over the relationship (or more accurately, a brushing of the arm) with Anne, and shares his desperate attempts to fit in with the cool kids by promising them issues of Playboy (which of course, he does not possess).
It's simultaneously endearing, self-deprecating, hopeful and sad.
When Ricardo realizes how hard his uneducated Dad (Colangelo) is working to make ends meet, the guilt sets in and we watch him "grow up" virtually overnight. There are wonderful scenes surrounding this transformation that also offer a perspective on why men who meet as boys often stay lifelong friends.
I enjoyed the journey into this loss of innocence, and even though some of the 80s fun had been played similarly in prior films (there's always a kid in KISS makeup, for example), it still worked well in this context. The extra touches added a welcome lightness to some of the darker themes playing out, and the family seemed like a true family.
Another pleasant element is that this story really was based on the writer/director's life. The real Ricardo Trogi showed sincerity and wit without giving in to self-indulgence, which made this one of the most appealing films I saw at the Cinequest Film Festival.
I do hope 1981 gains distribution so everyone can discover its charming appeal.