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Review: Drinkwater

October 28, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Drinkwater is a 1980s-inspired Canadian coming of age film set in Penticton, B.C. that centres around Mike Drinkwater (Daniel Doheny), an awkward teen boy who wants to get the girl and hopefully get into college to get out of his small town.

The Bruce Lee-obsessed Mike is stuck living with his eccentric father Hank (Eric McCormack), a virtual shut-in who has spent years collecting insurance checks for a fake workplace injury and is paranoid about getting caught.

Mike is bullied by the hockey jocks at school, chief among them Luke Ryan (Jordyn Burtchett), whose father Wesley (Bob Frazer) is a local big shot. To make matters worse, he is pining after figure skater Danny (Chloe Babcock), who just so happens to be dating Luke.

But Mike’s world opens up when his next door neighbours (Vincent Cheng and Linda Darlow) move in their teenaged granddaughter Wallace (Louriza Tronco) from the United States. The two start to form a friendship, with him helping show her the ropes, and her helping him train for a run. What follows is a film that unfolds with a mix of slapstick humour and more heartfelt scenes, as Drinkwater does a largely entertaining job of playing through the various coming of age movie tropes.

Directed by Stephen Campanelli, a camera operator who has worked closely with Clint Eastwood over the years and is now firmly establishing himself as a director following his 2017 debut Indian Horse, Drinkwater is primarily an homage to the 1980s films that the director grew up watching. The film is even set in a bit of a time warp; while it takes place in present day, which we can clearly see from the cellphones and flat screen TV, Mike’s home is filled with ephemera from the 1980s.

The film isn’t shy about its reference points and liberally borrows from the core staples of 1980s coming-of-age movies, with many overt nods to various John Hughes films (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, etc.). The film is predictable almost to a fault and we can pretty much tell what it is going to do at any given moment. It also very much embraces being a stereotypical Canadian film (including a scene in a Tim Hortons drive thru), and at times the winking Canadiana can feel like a bit too much.

But it’s all presented in a polished and easily diverting package, carried by likeable performances from a decent cast led by Doheny and McCormack, with Tronco holding her own in a supporting role. The film is topped off with a fun soundtrack of mostly Canadian rock songs from the era, including from bands like Trooper, April Wine, and Bachman Turner Overdrive. All in all, Drinkwater is an enjoyable tribute to the teen films of the 1980s, with enough funny and sweet moments to make it work.

Drinkwater is now playing in limited release in Toronto and other Canadian cities. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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