Review: Various Positions

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Josh (Tygh Runyan) is just your typical college student. He lives in the dorms despite his parents living nearby his chosen school. His life path is all set out for him. He's going to law school and will then join his father's firm after the completion of his studies. However, all this changes when he meets the lovely Cheryth (Carly Pope), an art student who he quickly falls in love with. At a family dinner, he introduces her to his parents who quickly voice their disapproval of their son's choice in female companionship. You see, Josh's family is comprised of strict Orthodox Jews who forbid their kin to date outside of the faith. His father gives him an ultimatum stating that he must choose between them and her. Unsure of what to do, Josh continues to explore his relationship with Cheryth while a family situation demands his attention to help right a sacred wrong. In the end, it comes down to the simple question: is love worth sacrificing everything you've come to know from your family, or at the end of the day is family more important?

These are the questions posed in writer/director Ori Kowarsky's debut motion picture film, Various Positions, which has played a number of film festivals over the past three years before gaining a small Canadian theatrical release by Alliance Atlantis and Odeon Films. Ori Kowarsky obviously has a very personal stake in the story, and it comes across in his work. Although he had very limited film experience and is in fact a lawyer with his father's firm, the feature is aided by the strong performances of Vancouver indie actors Tygh Runyan and Carly Pope. Technically speaking, the film is also well put together and shot, with beautiful blue and golden tones for the different settings like the college dorms and the more traditional family home. However, where the film loses its viewers is that it's ultimately not very interesting and the pacing is terribly slow. There really isn't a whole lot to the proceedings. The film has a beginning and an end, but there is a lack of character development, and while an arc does occur, it's not very well-conceived. The story is a simple take on "Romeo and Juliet" intermixed with issues of faith, which for this non-Jewish film reviewer didn't hit home. I was never engaged in Josh's struggle between love and family obligation. I wanted to be, but it just wasn't there for me.

Part of what keeps Various Positions afloat are the strong performances from Carly Pope and Tygh Runyan. Carly, who's always a strong asset to any film she is in, is lovely as the art student Cheryth. Her work here is not her best, but she manages to bring the troubled Cheryth to life. Tygh Runyan is a name that you won't likely be familiar with, but his face is well-known to fans of Canadian independent cinema. He plays a conflicted young adult relatively well, but comes up just short of selling the viewer of his plight. This is more the fault of the screenplay, which is underdeveloped and lacking a certain fresh approach, rather than Runyan's acting performance. After all, you can only work with what you've got. Filling out the cast in a great supporting performance is young Michael Suchanek as Josh's younger brother and faith-obsessed Tszi.

I really wanted to like Various Positions, especially since the film has been on my radar for a long time due to a friend of mine's involvement in the film. There are some strong elements of the film " it doesn't look like a low-budget debut feature and the casting is above average due to the inclusion of two strong local actors. Sadly, the film's story just isn't very interesting and it failed to capture and engage this audience member for 81 minutes. It's not a terrible motion picture by any stretch, it's just nothing particularly special or anything to write home about. It's a bumpy start for Ori Kowarsky, but if he keeps at it there is a chance that a much better film still lies within his creative mind " and if there isn't, at least he can always be a lawyer, which no doubt pays much better than directing small Canadian independent films.

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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