Manners of Dying (2004)
Genre: Drama (Canada)
Starring: Roy Dupuis (Maurice Richard: The Rocket; Being At Home With Claude), Serge Houde (The Score; Lathe Of Heaven)
Directed By: Jeremy Peter Allen
Overview: While a man spends his last few hours awaiting execution, he asks his warden to fulfill his last request: to send the tapes of those few hours to his mother.
Acting: When my girlfriend saw the face of Roy Dupuis, she asked, "Why does Quebec only have ONE actor?" That's the upside, having an established cast like these, we have several recognizable actors, and I will go as far as to say that Serge Houde is a Tour De Force as a stern yet caring character overseeing this execution. It's nice having a warden for once who plays an excellent professional, someone who isn't a hard-ass.
Cinematography: There's nothing harsher than giving a film the 'five-minute chance'. While trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the night, I turned this on as a doubtful 'maybe'. The opening shot perked me right up and kept me interested for a more serious evaluation. The sets are few: warden's office, jail hall, inmate's cell, chef's kitchen and execution chamber. I knew early on that this was a lower budget production, but the camerawork was often odd angles and mild fish-eye effects, enhancing the encroachment and fear that otherwise just would have made the filming rote stuff.
Script: The most humorous moments come from the chef as he creates the inmate's last meal. They are by no means hilarious, rather they serve a valiant effort at doing something to lighten the load on these last bleak hours. Overall, we have a heavy film with some serious depth, dialogue that is sometimes as conclusionary as a man's final words, or futile as though the inmate simply wishes to hear himself talk to cut through the tension. It's honest, it's everyman, it's good.
Plot: The story moves quickly, the man goes from tough to agitated to pitiable and then is executed. Then a moment of confusion for the audience: it begins again. We have another last meal, a different reaction, a different execution, all the same actors playing the same roles. Then another. Then another. The man is executed by lethal injection about eight times, all with the characters reacting a little differently, be it with the inmate's last meal request or in the different ways he entertains himself before the needle. Ultimately this story takes 20 minutes to tell, then loses cohesion at the constant retelling. Told three times too many, I had to take a break from all the repetition. At least the begining and the end are only done once, that's a pleasure.
Mood: The music is always appropriate, usually a light, haunting, ever-present background. The colour scheme of the jail, the stern professionalism of the staff, these were all things that enhanced the feel of the film. However, certain procedures taken seemed definitely out of protocol, a bit too much of a sense of the unresearched execution methods. I wondered why he wasn't in handcuffs during the final walk, I wondered why they didn't use the execution machine I've seen in all those documentaries. I wondered too much at the suspension of disbelief.
"Who is this building maintenance? What do you mean, the clock stopped working three hours ago?"
Overall Rating: 74% (At Least Manners Was Trying)
Aftertaste: Sweet TMN OnDemand. I've been neglecting this due to the recent rash of eBay rare film purchases and lendings from friends, but this is one of those guiltless services that allows you to watch a film without regretting that you wasted your time or your money, because it's on your schedule and it's as free as the cable you already have. No this film wasn't the best but it's unique enough to entertain my art-house mind during that lazy before-bedtime hour.