MAD SHIP (David Mortin). 94 minutes. Opens Friday (March 29). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Taking a page from The Grapes Of Wrath, Canadian filmmakers David Mortin and Patricia Fogliato fashion their own Depression-era tale about immigrants whose dream of a better life are buried in Manitoba's dust bowl.
Tomas (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Solveig (Line Verndal) are Scandinavians whose farm is verging on foreclosure. He goes off in search of whatever work is to be found, leaving Solveig to tend their children and contend with Cameron (Gil Bellows), a banker who visits so often you might think he's Jerry Maguire focusing on his sole client. Cameron's unrealistic hopes of saving the family are in conflict with his primal feelings for Solveig. He ends up screwing them - in more ways than one.
The story's set-up is dire, and the film free-falls from there, pushing every emotional button to moisten the eyes. Unfortunately, Mad Ship feels as dry as the prairies. Surplus tragic plot turns and overwrought symbols leave no room for character development to anchor our sympathies.
Tomas and Solveig are universal saps, pushed around by whatever the wind brings their way. This is a tale writ upon them instead of about them, which makes for a dull narrative.
The cast (Verndal especially) give fine performances, and Mortin has some eye-candy to offer (look for a shot reminiscent of The Shining), but it's all in vain, since they're working with material as impoverished as its subjects.