Monday, 27 April 2015

HOT DOCS 2015: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD - Review By Greg Klymkiw ***

All The Time In The World (2014)
Dir. Suzanne Crocker

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A happy, progressive family from Dawson City realize that the stress of modern living is wreaking havoc with their quality of life and creating barriers between honest, real communication in their home. They do what many dream about, but never do - they pack their bags with kids, cat and dog in tow and hightail it up north to the most isolated reaches of the Yukon to live for a year completely off-grid. Mom (Director, Producer and Cinematographer Suzanne Crocker) also decided to document the family's journey and given how much old settler-style toil the family endures (especially during the first third of the picture), she probably deserves some manner of SuperMom Oblation to have made a movie and carried on like Honest Abe Lincoln's Mom must have done in that old log cabin.

Happily, we don't spend too much time in the city, nor are we subjected to what must have been a seeming lifetime of rumination, then planning and finally getting everything ready that they're going to need to live on in the middle of nowhere - a place bereft of any means to communicate with the outside world. We get just enough of the aforementioned so we can get to the good stuff.

And wow! What good stuff! We get to experience the utter drudgery of carting what seems like half the contents of a storage locker warehouse from their boat up to the cabin deep in the forest, building a humungous above-ground storage facility for their food, rigging a platform to pull their boat onto dry ground for the winter and a whole whack of other necessary duties to get themselves set up.

I was especially delighted to note that the family brought along archery gear, big sharp blades and firearms. I know from experience that the wilderness can be home to bears, wolves, coyotes and perhaps, most menacing of all, inbred country cousins. My fingers were crossed. All good storytellers know you don't introduce weaponry into your yarn without making good use of them.

The film has a unique three-act structure which naturally follows the events of the family's journey, but clearly much effort and thought has been placed into evoking more than mere narrative beats. What the film provides us with is the actual tone and almost poetic nature of this lifestyle. The family have no phones, no computers, no radios, no television sets, no walks, no CBs and perhaps most importantly, no clocks of any kind. The sense of time having no meaning is something the film beautifully evokes. We get to experience genuine conversations, the simple pleasures of reading aloud, preparing all the food from scratch, chopping firewood (one of my personal favourites - NOT!) and endlessly hauling buckets of water up and down a steep, rugged hill (double NOT on this for me).

There's fun, of course: skating on rivers, ice-sledding, playing in the snow, building a huge tent which gets covered with snow (becoming a cool clubhouse/fort) and even celebrating events like Halloween and Christmas in ways unique to the isolated setting. There's also a real sense that the family is in on stuff together - the kids often present very cool ideas and contributions to their lifestyle. There's danger, too. (No, the inbred country cousins haven't shown up yet.) There's a humungous snow storm and Dad's out in the wilds on his own, thus injecting a few beats of genuine tension.

What the film does not show (or chooses not to show) is the kind of nasty, verbal sparring that can rear its ugly head when family or friends are afflicted with cabin fever. I longed, with baited-breath for some Edward Albee or Eugene O'Neill-like acrimony - Mom and Dad sloshing back several beakers of rotgut then hurling barbs of verbal abuse at each other while the children cower in the corner.

Oh well, they seem like nice people. I cannot fault them for that.

Finally, what really hits home (at least for me) is the silence and then realizing, life in the middle of nowhere is NEVER silent, but that the sounds of the natural world are not unlike a gorgeous symphony orchestra. I personally know quite a bit about living off-grid (because I indeed do) and certainly found much in the film I was able to connect with, but even I couldn't do what this family did. They're not simply off-grid for most of the picture's running time, they might as well be off the planet. Me, I need my shortwave radio to listen to crazy survivalists and evangelists barking madly into the deep night and while I'm perfectly adept at chopping wood, I much prefer getting one of the locals to dump a few cord of wood every six months or so. I do, however, enjoy stacking it.

Much to my consternation, the inbred country cousins never do show up. Damn! I harboured images of Dad blowing the grizzled, drooling psychopaths away while the kids got into the action with bows, arrows, knifes and axes. (Mom would be filming all this, of course.) I was ready to throw in the towel when the reality of this hit me. However, an unexpected visitor DOES show up and yes, the gun must be fired.

This made me happy. Then again, don't mind me. As James Cagney would always say in Raoul Walsh's Strawberry Blonde, "It's just the kind of hairpin I am."


All The Time In The World will have its Toronto Premiere at HOT DOCS 2015. For schedule and tickets, visit the Hot Docs website HERE.