Guys, what would you do if you suddenly became the husband of the wife who was guilty of having sex with a 14 year-old schoolboy? No doubt the question has been asked a thousand times at some point, and it’s what makes up the basic premise of Bruce McDonald‘s latest feature “The Husband.” If the name sounds familiar than you’re probably a “Hard Core Logo” fan.
McDonald has enough television and film work under his belt to be considered a vet, dating all the way back to the mid ’80s and TIFF Canadian Feature “Winner Roadkill.” In 1996, Quentin Tarantino allegedly saved one of McDonald’s movies from VHS abyss and released it through his production company Rolling Thunder Pictures. So “Hard Core Logo” became an accessible cult darling for many fans of music documentaries. No shame in saying that this reviewer hasn’t yet had the pleasure of getting acquainted with these hidden Canadian gems, so the expectations were duly neutralized for “The Husband.” The result is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there’s a refreshingly sarcastic and wry sense of humor leaping from the screenplay written by Kelly Harms and, the film’s star, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos. And naturally, he brings Henry Andreas to life as well as can be expected from someone who understands the character so well. On the other side of the coin, a sense of futility starts dragging the story by its feet a little bit by the time that you’ve already soaked yourself half way in, and the conclusion is a bit of a slip in tempo.
The story is Henry Andreas’ trials and tribulations as the regular guy with an infant son, a wife in jail for sexual misconduct with a minor and the weight of the world on his shoulders. He has to juggle the daily routine of his life with the full responsibility of taking care of a baby, the constant mental exhaustion of embarrassment about coming to terms with the fact that his wife cheated on him with a 14 year old boy and he needs to make a decision whether to continue making her a part of the family or cutting her out. Regular visits with the boy make for all the family time there is, and with Alyssa’s (Sarah Allen) last day just around the corner, Henry needs to find a way to move on from this ordeal. The set up is a pretty brilliant twisting of the more popular and internal perspective in the theme of sleeping with a minor. Things start to pick the pace up when Henry becomes obsessed with understanding what exactly happened the night that changed his life and goes on a mission to talk with Colin (Dylan Authors), the kid that made him into a cuckold. Despite the efforts of the loved ones around him, including German language teacher Rusty (August Diehl, otherwise known as the eavesdropping Nazi Hellstrom in “Inglorious Basterds”) and Alyssa’s dad Armand (McDonald regular Stephen McHattie), Henry is determined to get some answers.
McCabe-Lokos deserves heaps amount of credit for making this as funny as this kind of subject never had any rights to be. From the very first moment that sees Henry changing a tire in the middle of a highway—a perfect representation of life’s banal annoyances—McCabe-Lokos carries this forlorn, exhausted and defunct way about him, with bursts of energy coming in waves and producing some of the funniest bits. McDonald’s experience also shines through; with the scenes having a vibrancy about them that’s accentuated by the fantastic soundtrack and building up to moments of awkwardness, comedy, horror, tenderness and creepiness with great ease. It’s the film’s greatest achievement that it gets to play around with so many genre types within a single film without making it seem all over the place and messy. Just as you can laugh at the misfortunes of poor Henry and his soar way of swallowing it all, you’d find yourself fearing for his mental health, wondering whether he’s dangerously crossing the line or expecting him to get a “Falling Down” epiphany and exploding at any moment. The stalking of Colin gives off a very eerie vibe at one point and McDonald utilizes some deftly handled cinematic tricks to show how much the memory of the life before the incident is affecting his present thoughts. Put together and shaken up, the film is a refreshing cocktail of genres with black comedy as the dominant flavor.
The futility of Henry’s search for answers starts to weigh in and there are a couple of moments that stick out like thorns, where it feels like McDonald lost control of the wheel. The fact that most of the control is lost towards the end is a shame because it leaves things off at a moment that was perhaps meant to be touching, perhaps funny but ended up being neither and too abrupt to really feel like anything was truly understood or learned by the characters. Not a minor thing when most of the story started to hinge on its conclusion, but that’s not to say that “The Husband” is not recommended viewing. If you find yourself in the mood for a black comedy about a guy who is definitely worse off than you are right now, “The Husband” is that guy. [B]