BECOMING REDWOOD (Jesse James Miller). 99 minutes. Opens Friday (April 26). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
Becoming Redwood suffers from that deadliest malady of most Canadian cinema: it's too earnest. Ryan Grantham puts in a strong performance as Redwood, an 11-year-old flower child who's bused from BC to northern California when his hippie dad's busted for dealing coke. Redwood escapes from his new home - and his nasty, Cinderella-ish step-family - into his own mind, where he dreams of besting golfer Jack Nicklaus in the 1975 Masters Tournament.
The first film produced through Vancouver's new StoryLab production/distribution house, Becoming Redwood is suffocatingly sincere, eager to please with its mishmash of sports film clichés and broken-home family drama. Even its competent performances and staging feel exaggeratedly slick, with nothing under their veneer of quality.
While some Canadian filmmakers (Kaz Radwanski and Igor Drljaca in Ontario, Denis Côté in Quebec, even Dylan Aiko Smith in BC) are determined to crack open new languages for our cinema, Redwood writer/director Jesse James Miller seems content to hack through tired, feel-good tropes to craft something like a Canadian crowd-pleaser.