Jack, 2013, Canada
What a fitting companion to my review of The Lady! Jack is the CBC-produced biopic of the life of the late Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party here in Canada. The film is set during the 2011 election, where the NDP triumphed and won 103 seats and the title of the Official Opposition for the very first time. Mr. Layton (played by Rick Roberts) was a huge force to be reckoned with during that election, despite recovering from hip surgery at the time.
Important events in Mr. Layton’s life were told through flashbacks. We get to see how he met his wife, Olivia Chow (Sook-Yin Lee), a school trustee who went on to become an MP. We see their wedding, and his victory in the very first round of the 2003 NDP Leadership Convention.
For the most part, the film remains pretty partisan. While it’s impossible to do a biopic of a politician without discussion of their beliefs within the film, it definitely wasn’t a piece of NDP propaganda. Instead, it told the story of a man who died far too soon. Mr. Layton was highly respected in Canada, even among his political opponents and detractors. He was a politician I believed in passionately, and his death devastated me. It was a great loss for Canada, and I’ll always feel sad that Mr. Layton could not relish in his role as Leader of the Official Opposition.
The film itself was fairly good. Roberts and Lee had great chemistry (though the implied sex scene was unnecessary!). Make-up really did wonders for Roberts, as he looks nothing like Mr. Layton in real life, and in the film he does look a lot like him! Portions of the film were shot here in Winnipeg, and despite the efforts to make it look like Toronto, I just saw Winnipeg in the shots! But, then again, I’m a lifelong resident of Winnipeg and I walk past some of the buildings in the film every day.
Many moments are done with absolute intimacy. Mr. Layton’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death felt very intimate – almost as if I were intruding on a family’s most private moments. I dare you not to cry during those scenes. I started crying when he gave his victory speech following the 2011 election – knowing what was coming and the fact that he was never able to really take on the role of Leader of the Official Opposition just made me lose it (but I’m also a crier!).
While many feel it is too soon to release a biopic of Mr. Layton, the timing did not bother me. I thought it was a great film and a tribute to an amazing Canadian. If you’re in Canada and didn’t have a chance to watch the film on CBC, you can view it online here and I strongly urge you to do so!