January 29, 2006

Director Drew on Hippie Upbringing for Debut Feature Film A Simple Curve
- Andrea Baillie

Aubrey Nealon grew up in British Columbia, the child of hippie parents who came to Canada from the U.S. as conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War.

The family home had no phone, running water or electricity, all of which created rich fodder for Nealon's acclaimed feature film debut, A Simple Curve.

"Traditional roles are all turned on their heads," Nealon said of his bohemian upbringing during an interview at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival.

"You've got parents acting a bit like kids and you've got kids who have to be quite responsible and take the adult roles."

Such is the scenario in A Simple Curve, starring Kris Lemche (Joan of Arcadia) as Caleb, who dutifully tries to save the struggling carpentry business he shares with his flower-child father Jim, but is beginning to yearn for more. The film opens Friday in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.

By turns hilarious and sweet, A Simple Curve plays out against the stunning backdrop of B.C.'s Slocan Valley.

The writer/director clearly has a passion for the area, filling frame after frame with breathtaking mountain panoramas.

"I love the place, I love the people out there," said Nealon, who left home at age 15 to pursue an acting career in Vancouver and later attended the Canadian Film Centre's directing program in Toronto.

"It's spectacularly beautiful, towering mountains and clear lakes, gorgeous beyond anything you can imagine."

It's also the site of a unique community, he said, the result of a influx of "middle-class educated American kids" who arrived in the late 1960s and early '70s to dodge the Vietnam draft.

"There's a really interesting mix of people, small-town salt-of-the-earth, kind of Canadian pioneer-type families and then there are all these American hippie kids. It's a rich mix."

For Lemche, who lives in Los Angeles but grew up in Brampton, Ont., shooting in the area was "absolute culture shock, in the greatest way."

"(I'd) never been into the interior of B.C., I'd never been to any place that was even remotely similar to the Slocan Valley and it's one of the most beautiful environments I've ever been in," he said.

"I'd wake up and go outside and there were these gigantic mountains and pine forests and streams where you could dip your water cup and actually drink."

While Nealon wondered what it would be like to shoot the film in the community where he grew up, he came away somewhat bemused by the low-key reaction.

The only person in the laid-back village of New Denver, B.C., who got ruffled about the shoot, he joked, was a cafe owner who was disgruntled that she was getting so much business.

That type of small-town quirkiness runs throughout A Simple Curve.

Things change for Caleb, however, when a friend from Jim's past arrives in town, upsetting the delicate relationship between father and son.

The film is laugh-out-loud funny at times, thanks to a stellar performance by Lemche, who says Nealon's script was an immediate standout.

"When you get a script like Aubrey's script... it made me so happy. I was so glad and you get so excited and you realize why you're in the business and why you love doing it."

Critics have so far echoed that exuberance. The film was recently cited as one of the Top Ten Canadian films for 2005, according to the Toronto International Film Festival Group.

The Canadian Press