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Events that take place before, during, and after a high school basketball game
Written and directed by Ted stenson
Featuring Andrew Phung, Ben Arthurs and Isra Abdelrahim
Classification PG; 75 minutes
Available at select Landmark theaters on October 4 and on-demand digital from October 5
Sad basketball team, dramatic kids lurking in the subplot and lots of Matrix Speech: Ted Stenson’s feature debut is for most of us who went to high school in Canada exactly in 1999.
Inspired by Stenson’s own difficult experiences playing for an average team in his youth, Events that take place before, during, and after a high school basketball game is a more realistic slice of adolescent life – purposely mundane. There is no flash or scorching to be found, like in a typical Hollywood teen movie; no inspiring outsider, nor even much of a basketball game, which is cheekily played off camera. As one character puts it, “It’s high school basketball in Calgary – I didn’t expect to get soaked. ” Events is a mumblecore-esque, dialogue-rich movie about nerds and weirdos that viewers could probably choose from their own high school yearbooks.
Said nerds and weirdos are played mainly by beginner or amateur actors. A few noteworthy points include third string playmaker Joel (Ben Arthurs), who is obsessed with the recently released blockbuster The matrix and explain existentialism to his teammates (the future Joel is definitely obsessed with Waking life in a few years). Then there’s drama student Danica (Ivy Miller) plotting to disrupt the basketball game in protest, after the school ends its provocative plan to hang an effigy of Jean. Christian at the end of King Lear – as a critique of the patriarchal bias of the school system, obviously.
The combination of less experienced actors with a deadpan script is hit and miss. The naturalistic performances give the feeling of real high school students, but sometimes that vibe leans more towards high school drama production. This disparity is made even more striking when adult referees and coaches are added to the mix. Andrew Phung (Kim’s convenience) is the film’s life as assistant coach Brent, who is increasingly disturbed by the fact that his desire to lead NBA coach Phil Jackson’s famed Offense Triangle is being ignored by coach Davidson (Paul Cowling, who looks like Jackson). But Phung’s seasoned comedic energy made it feel like she was from a whole different movie.
What keeps the film together is the decision to shoot on location. Stenson, who funded Events as part of Telefilm’s Talent to Watch program in 2018, made a point of securing its former playground, Queen Elizabeth High School in Calgary. Its executives linger in hallways, over lockers, all that mid-century design that is so iconic of Canadian high schools. What Stenson captures is the visceral memory of walking the same halls every day for years, trying not to get soaked.
In the interest of consistency across all critical critics, The Globe has removed its star rating system in film and theater to align with the coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, Works of Excellence will be noted with a Critics’ Choice designation throughout the cover.