Publication: TheMovieWaffler, November 27th 2017
In a downbeat town, the lives of a young woman and man are disrupted by her advances.
Review by Christopher Marchant
Directed by: Joyce Wong
Starring: Reid Asselstine, Darrel Gamotin, Francis Melling, Ellie Posadas, Mirko Miljevic
An audience naturally sides with the protagonist regardless of their committing acts we would never condone in the real world. Films telling stories from different perspectives are also nothing new, going back to Rashomon, onto the more recent classic Pulp Fiction, and the less than classic Vantage Point.
Canadian indie Wexford Plaza is able to utilise protagonist sympathy while adding something to the crowded multi-perspective conceit. The flaws of its characters do not come from a criminal’s self-aggrandisement, but rather the quiet desperation of dead-end surroundings and an all-consuming loneliness.
20-year-old Betty (Reid Asselstine) finds employment as an overnight security guard at the titular Wexford Plaza. She is neglected by her more successful girlfriends, and her male co-workers treat her with goggle-eyed contempt.
Danny (Darrel Gamotin) works at a bar on the plaza, and soon gains Betty’s attention in spite of his being a decade older. He’s going through financial troubles and happily takes Betty’s opportunity of a make-up party to sell Avon products. Unfortunately, such is Betty’s wishful thinking, she is able to take Danny’s friendship with her as something more, with disastrous results.
With the film’s opening focus on Betty, there are strong similarities to Danielle Macdonald‘s character from this year’s Patti Cake$. Both women are limited by a depressed economic environment, the ignorance of their peers, and the isolation that can come from being a larger woman.
Patti dreams of rap glory, while Betty dreams only of finding someone to make her happy. There is a telling and hopelessly tragic scene early on in Wexford Plaza, when Betty exposes herself to a plastered Danny in a desperate attempt at an intimate connection.
A lack of emotional intelligence and a reckless desperation to read events the way you want regardless, can come to have seismic effects on people’s lives. An audience comes to feel for Betty and her loneliness, and it is only after we come to see Danny’s perspective that we are reminded her actions are also predatory.
Betty’s actions can be understood if not condoned. Danny can be condoned if not entirely understood. He’s lost a job he enjoyed and needed at a bar; why not go looking for more bar work? Why not just tell Betty he’s unavailable and hopefully kill her advances stone dead? This may seem like nit-picking, but looking for ways out of Danny’s predicament does disrupt the final half of the film.
Wexford Plaza comes in at a lean 80 minutes, and I half-expected a final perspective shift to Rich (Francis Melling), co-worker of Betty and friend of Danny. He is presented as such an odious character, riddled with misogyny and ugly humour, it would have been interesting to see how director Joyce Wong could have presented his perspective on things and why he acted in the way he did.
Wong has created a promising calling card of a film, in which she is able to explore both nuances of character and tailor an engaging, focused narrative. There’s more hope for her future than that of her characters so trapped in Wexford Plaza.
Wexford Plaza opens in Canadian cinemas December 1st, with a VOD release January 23rd 2018. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.