Andy B’s Take: One Week, and The Beauty Of The Great White North

In January 2000 I was 23 years old and not in a particularly great place. I’d finished university a few months earlier and enrolled in a post-graduate college program. I was going to go into publishing. I was going to be an editor. The only problem was, after five weeks in the program I realized that I didn’t want to be an editor. Not right then, anyway. So I dropped out, and picked up a few jobs here and there as I tried to figure out what I was going to do next. In the meantime, I was haunted by what I could only consider to be the ghost of a failed relationship. With so much going on in my brain, I decided I needed to do something drastic. I needed to run away. So I bought a roundtrip VIA rail ticket with the intention of heading west to Vancouver. I was going to experience Canada. The Great White North in the dead of winter.

In the new film One Week, Joshua Jackson’s Ben Taylor experiences Canada. But the monkey on his back is neither an old flame nor a lack of gainful employment, but instead terminal cancer. With a finite amount of time left, Taylor decides to leave his family and fiancé (Liane Balaban) and travel west. What is supposed to be a two day trip turns into something longer and increasingly eye-opening, for both the character and the audience.

One Week, written and directed by Michael McGowan, is one of the most affecting films I’ve seen in a long time, and not just because of my own personal travel experiences. While Jackson may be the focal point of the film, and does an admirable job doing so, it’s Canada that’s the star. Rolling hills, fields, greenery, mountains, and water; I’m dumbing down the amazing landscape that makes up the country, but it’s all there in One Week. And well worth seeing on the big screen. It made me think that the world needs some sort of IMAX film about Canada. There are a few moments of too much Canada in my book though, but that only comes from the overabundance of songs throughout the film. It doesn’t matter that they’re Canadian, just that I found the constant use of pop songs distracting.

While Canada is the essential reason to see One Week in theatres, the story is what will allow the movie to work at home on your television. Jackson is one of my least favourite actors (I never understood how Joey chose Pacey over Dawson), but I thoroughly enjoyed his performance as his character comes to grips with his life and his diagnosis. It’s compelling stuff, watching the dissolution of a relationship from miles away. The constant question throughout the film (often uttered by narrator Campbell Scott) is “what would you do if you have one week to live?” Jackson’s performance left me wondering what the answer would be for myself.

One of the most memorable moments for me during One Week was the appearance of Gordon Downie of the Tragically Hip, as a character Jackson meets early on into his road trip. While onscreen for just a few moments, Downie is understatedly dynamic and moving. I wish I knew why my eyes teared up during that particular scene, but it was the first of many times during the film’s running time that I was overcome with emotion.

Though I’m no expert on Canada, I feel an indefinable and constant love for my country. Watching One Week, it’s clear I’m not alone in that feeling. I don’t know how the film will play south of the border, but I feel as though One Week should be required viewing for all of us that live in Canada.

As for my own journey, I only made it to Calgary on my cross-Canada adventure. I was sad, I was lonely, and I just wanted to go home. I missed out on the mountains of BC. I missed out on so much. I thoroughly regret turning around. But unlike Joshua Jackson’s character in One Week, I know when next I experience the grandeur of Canada it won’t be a solo journey, but will be with the absolute right person beside me.

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