mentally unstable like a fox (wordplay) wrote in the_ckr_files,
mentally unstable like a fox

Wilby Wonderful (movie post)

From IMDB: "A day-in-the-life dark comedy concerning a group of islanders, their respective secrets, and one man's plan to kill himself quietly."

The film focuses on the changes occurring in these characters lives as development comes to the island and threatens to change the world around them. CKR plays Duck McDonald, the everyman moral center of the ensemble who is a fixture of the island and life there, and who both remains constant to the spirit of the island even as he embodies its changes.

The IMDB page: Wilby Wonderful (2004)

Directed by Daniel MacIvor, who is more of a theatre guy but who worked with CKR in Twitch City, discussing cat food and magnesium. He also wrote the film, and it retains the small ensemble feeling of theatre.

The film is a who's who of C6D and remaps a whole bunch of relationships that have existed elsewhere on screen. CKR and Sandra Oh worked together early on in Double Happiness; James Allodi and Paul Gross shared screen time in the best comedy ever made about curling; and then of course that Paul Gross guy was on a TV show once, or something, with CKR.

Cast / Characters:

James Allodi
Maury Chaykin
Paul Gross
Rebecca Jenkins
Sandra Oh
Ellen Page
Callum Keith Rennie
Daniel MacIvor

Dan Jarvis
Mayor Brent Fisher
Buddy French
Sandra Anderson
Carol French
Emily Anderson
Duck MacDonald
Stan Lastman

Year: 2004

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Canada

IMDB rating: 7.0/10 (532 votes)

Genre: Comedy | Drama

Keywords: Suicide Attempt | Island Life | Dark Comedy | Black Comedy | Suicide


Ellen Page won an Atlantic Canadian Award in 2004 at the Atlantic Film Festival for Outstanding Performance by an Actor - Female

Rebecca Jenkins won a Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award in 2005 for Best Supporting Actress - Canadian Film

The film was nominated in 2005 for a couple of Genie Awards: Rebecca Jenkins's "Something's Coming" for Best Achievement in Music - Original Song and Ellen Page for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

The film was also nominated for a handful of Chlotrudis Awards in 2006, including Best Ensemble Cast, Best Original Screenplay (Daniel MacIvor) and Best Supporting Actress (Sandra Oh).

There are 17 user comments.

One (particularly glowing) example:
A day in the life on Wilby Island, off Nova Scotia, may not sound like a resource for rich storytelling, but in the gifted hands of writer/director Daniel MacIvor and inordinately talented Canadian cast WILBY WONDERFUL penetrates more dark secrets, exposes more astray lives, and addresses more human frailties than almost all of the competition. This is independent film-making at its finest, with all of the emphasis on quality and little concern for the big budget special effects that mire so many films today.

On the little island, divided between islanders and mainlanders 'visiting', lives an array of lonely people. We are introduced to a 'cause celebre' that happened on the beach (though the facts are hazy) and investigating the scandal are police officers Buddy French (Paul Gross) and his somewhat loose cannon Stan (portrayed by MacIvor himself). Buddy's wife Carol (Sandra Oh) is a very busy real estate person, assisted by her doofus secretary Deena (Kathryn MacLellan), out to sell a home to the town mayor (Maury Chaykin) and family (Susannah Hoffman and Marcella Grimaux), and while Carol is fretting over details, her meandering husband Buddy is secreting an affair with island returnee wannabe café owner Sandra Anderson (Rebecca Jenkins), whose libidinous past negatively influences her young daughter Emily (Ellen Page) in her new physical tryst with young Taylor (Caleb Langille). And while each of these stories unfolds, the town gossip Irene (Mary Ellen MacLean) keeps her evil eye on the soon-to-be-made apparent scandal that video store owner Dan Jarvis (James Allodi), who spends the entire movie attempting variations on suicide, and town painter Duck MacDonald (Callum Keith Rennie) are to be outed as being gay. It is the strange interplay of each of these lonely, needy characters that brings brilliant focus to the tiny bit of reality that is actually heartfelt.

MacIvor and friends pull off this strange little black comedy with ease and aplomb and the film is a charmer in every way - from script to cinematography (Rudolf Blahacek) to musical score (Michael Timmins). This is a splendid little movie that deserves a very wide audience.

You can find all the comments here.

Callum Quotient: 75%? He's an important character, critical to the plot, but without as much screentime as that might predict.


  • Duck: Aren't you your mother's daughter.

  • Carol: *rambles on for a while* {pause} It's hard to meet people.

  • Sandra: Ever hear of 'live and let live,' Irene?
    Irene: We don't do that here, thank god.

  • Elaine: Well you can like it better the backwards way, but the backwards way can't be better, because the backward way is wrong.

  • Duck: I would have brought a bottle but I gave it up. It didn't agree with me. Well, it did agree with me, but on all the wrong stuff.

  • Mackenzie: *takes a drag and glares at the cigarette* Are these lights?
    Buddy: Mm-hm.
    Mackenzie: Lights suck!

  • Paul Gross' two children Hannah and Jack Gross appear in the background of the movie.

  • Wilby is never explicitly located in the film, but Daniel MacIvor has acknowledged its similarities to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the town of his birth.

  • The soundtrack is of note; Gentlemen Reg shows up with a few tracks, and Rebecca Jenkins (Sandra) does a beautiful performance of "Something's Coming"

Interesting scenes:

  • Dan's attempts to kill himself are constantly interrupted, by Duck and Carol. His attempts continually through a wrench into Carol's real estate plans, as he seems especially fond of trying to kill himself in houses she's trying to sell.

  • Duck and Dan reunite in Dan's motel room and obliquely discussing their experiences at the Watch and Dan's impending divorce and departure. Duck attempts to lay some groundwork for a real relationship, only to be blocked by Dan's reticence.

  • Duck tries to ask his old friend Buddy to keep Dan's name out of the paper, only to be interrupted by Sandra and Buddy's botched attempt at a liaison.

  • Duck rescues Emily from an over-zealous boyfriend.

  • Buddy realizes the treachery of the mayor over drinks and a cigarette with a teenaged girl.

  • Sandra and Emily reconnect after a very eventful evening over a cleaned grill and a cup of coffee.

Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
Poll #1234607 Wilby Wonderful

Overall rating?

Well, that's 90 minutes of my life I won't get back.


Wilby is wonderfully peaceful
Wilby is wonderfully peaceful, most of the time
I mean, it's not as crazy as the mainland, but things get a little violent occasionally, sure
It's pretty violent, yeah
It's a bloodbath, man


Very funny, laugh riot
I laughed a lot, sure
Pretty funny, yep
Good for a chuckle or two, I guess
Dude. These people are so earnest all the time

Sexual content?

Sexy as all hell
Hot like fire
Hot like summer
Hot like Halifax
Why do we like this, again? Totally sexless, bah.

Sexual violence?

We don't do that here, thank god.
We don't do that here. Much.
Wilby can get a little rough, man.
Nasty, nasty place.
Wilby is a hotbed of sexual violence. Also, destruction and mayhem.

Duck MacDonald
Poll #1234608 Duck MacDonald

Duck MacDonald

*sigh* My hero! ♥
Really, solidly good guy
Normal guy
Not a nice guy
Serial killer

How many people does Duck kill?

DUCK? Duck is a peaceful soul who only gets violent when young girls are threatened, and even then it's mostly a pose.
Just that one really mean guy who absolutely had it coming.
This is why he had to leave the island, b/c his first approach to the tourist problem was more hands-on.
And he didn't stop once he left, but really - a double handful isn't so bad, is it? He has such a nice smile!
This is what he's really doing up at the Watch: digging graves, lots and lots of graves.

How crazy is Duck?

The only sane one of the bunch.
Well, I mean, considering the crazy surrounding him.... *shrug*
OK, so look - he actually thought the banner was SUPPOSED to say "Wilby Wonderful". That seem right to you?
And he actually TOLD Carol that. Is that the action of a completely sane man?
So, clearly, he is leading the crazy parade.

Now. Just HOW HOT is Duck?

Oh, please. Hot like burning. The coveralls should be aflame.
Damn. Why can't I ever stumble across men like this when I'm out in the woods at night?
I mean, he'll do in a pinch, I guess.
Yeah, just not feeling it. Sorry.

Queerness quotient.

Very very gay
Pretty gay
Maybe, maybe not
No. No, srsly

Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)

::Totally not dead! \o/::


An excerpt:
The Strand: Was it hard directing such a large and talented cast?

MacIvor: Everybody played on the scene; everybody made it easy for everyone else. That part was a joy, really... They were very good-natured and generous... The things that were most challenging were the editing and writing, because it is an ensemble. It's about everybody; it's not a movie about a woman or a man or a young girl. It's about a town, so the attention has got to be equally distributed.

It's a real structural challenge when editing. I always sit in the editing room fulltime with the editor, and one of the things we like to [do] is sort of throw it all up in air and change the order. You know, really mess with the structure to get some more ideas...Really the challenge was less about working on the set, and more about before and after.

The Strand: How did changing the film's name from Honey to Wilby Wonderful affect the movie in terms of editing?

MacIvor: What a good question. The time when I was calling it Honey, there was a whole metaphor about how sometimes the thing that stings you gets you to something sweet. Sometimes you have to suffer for something good. And the town was called Honey... Then I realized I couldn't call it Honey because there was already a movie called Honey, and I didn't want to do that. I started to think about opening it up a bit: What is [the film] about if it's not all about that? And I thought, well, really, it's about hope, and it's got to be about hope. All the stuff I do, I think, is ultimately about that. So I started to think about it, and then ... something hit me on the side of the head and said "Wilby." And then the town was Wilby, because that was about the future. And then Wilby Wonderful came from that, and all of a sudden the whole new draft came [from] that title. It's the magical thing that happens with writing: sometimes you have no idea where it's going and then all of a sudden you can't imagine you were ever going anywhere but there.

From here.

An excerpt:
At the heart of Wilby Wonderful is Dan Jarvis (Allodi), married owner of the local video store who’s looking, as the film begins, for a quiet spot to kill himself. It seems that a little nocturnal fornication at the local cruising area has caught up with Dan — his wife has left him, and he’d rather not face the shame of seeing his name in print in the town paper. This being a comedy however, Dan is continually interrupted by the other denizens of Wilby, including the local handyman Duck MacDonald (Rennie), who’s also implicated in the scandal, but sees it as a chance to connect with Dan in a less clandestine way.

Dan’s dilemma touches the rest of the townsfolk in different ways, including the social-climbing real-estate agent Carol French (Oh) who’s selling his house; her husband, the town policeman Buddy (Gross), who has his hands full with the sexy Sandra Anderson (Jenkins), recently back in town with her teenaged daughter Emily (Ellen Page) in tow; and the town mayor, Brent Fisher (Chaykin), who has big plans for the prime waterfront property where the cruising area is located.

MacIvor wrote many of the roles specifically for the actors who play them, including the characters of Dan and Duck for Allodi and Rennie. “Weird, eh?” answers MacIvor when asked about the significance of writing gay characters for straight actors. “But I’ve been in love with them for years, and Jim and Callum are both metrosexuals. They’re so gorgeous, both of them.”

Found here.


isiscolo posted "Ten Things about Duck McDonald" as part of last year's Yuletide. It's a gorgeous, gentle meditation on Duck's character, and the "Ten Things" format suits Duck beautifully. It also features a lovely interaction between Sandra and Duck, two characters whose positions on the fringes of social acceptability give them a kinship that I'd like to have seen explored more fully in the film. Go read it here.

malnpudl posted "A Change of Season", a very sweet, life-affirming Duck/Dan fic. As in the film, Duck's warm, kind presence hovers in the background. You can read it here.

isiscolo maintains Wilbylinks over at, here.

There's a small LJ community, wilbywednesday.


The movie is available through Amazon here.

In summary:
I really love this movie - the soundtrack is great, it's got a sense of locality that I adore, and MacIvor's done a great job with thematic construction. I have a personal interest in geography and the representation of place, so there's a lot here for me - issues of island v. mainlander; Carol's constant flittering from property to property and the way she's lost herself among all those empty houses; the relationships of the characters to the iconic piece of property, the Watch. Each of these characters is liminal, struggling to redefine themselves against the past in anticipation of an uncertain future. It's my very, very favorite of the C6d canon.
Tags: .genre: movie post, callum quotient: 70%, film: wilby wonderful, year: 2004
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.