Surprises don't come much better than this: Writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's debut feature is the kind of self-assured and emotionally complex film that many filmmakers spend entire careers trying to make. After a 10-year absence, Sweet William (Ian Parsons) returns to
Nova Scotia and his seriously dysfunctional family home to attend sister Rosemary's (Kerry Fox) wedding. William left home a 350-pound, closeted homosexual teenager, after failing to hang himself in his father's garden; he returns a slim, attractive and relatively well-adjusted openly gay man.
Back home, however, it's business as usual: His mother (Seana McKenna) is the same self-pitying control freak who blames her children for her wasted life; his emotionally distant and abusive father (Peter MacNeill) is still a drunk; Rosemary is as foul-mouthed and angry as ever; and the specter of
William's former obese self still hangs from the apple tree. Over the course of his stay, William realizes that, yes, you can go home again, but wonders why anyone in his or her right mind would want to. It's a surprisingly mature film about finally growing up long after the fact; about the
inevitable return-trip home that is as much a ghost story as it is a family psychodrama. Divided into three chapters -- the second is a lengthy flashback to William's miserable teenage years -- Fitzgerald's script is wonderfully controlled, perceptively probing the painful realities of family life
while boldly integrating magical, often surreal flourishes. Blessed with a knockout cast -- Fox bats it right out of the park -- Fitzgerald is also graced with a natural visual instinct that leads him to a number of startlingly resonant images: Adult faces reflected in childhood photographs;
flowers dying as the asphyxiating teenage William gasps for breath. You come away from the film not only with an impression of a job well done, but the welcome emergence of a major new talent.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: Surprises don't come much better than this: Writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's debut feature is the kind of self-assured and emotionally complex film that many filmmakers spend entire careers trying to make. After a 10-year absence, Sweet William (Ian Parso… (more)