When I go to the Hyland Cinema, or any movie theatre for that matter, I always check out Rotten Tomatoes' score for the film in question and I typically have full array of opinions to access for a consensus statement.
This Sunday, I had a slightly different experience with a Canadian feature film, Blood Pressure. Like too many native features, this one has has only 2 reviews on RT, although they are both positive and one of them is from the Toronto Star. As a result, I was coming to this movie this movie relatively blind, and the result is exactly the kind of cinematic experience I want from London's only art house theater.
The story is about a frustrated woman, Nicole (Michelle Giroux),
who has a pharmacist job under the thumb of a hard ass manager who seems determined to crush out any human interaction and compassion on the job. Her family life is worse with a coldly distant husband, her teenage kids are a pair of spoiled brats and she is left feeling there is nothing special in her life. One day, she gets a mysterious letter out of nowhere with an offer to help her change her life if she obeys one simple instruction to signal her willingness to begin. She does so, and that begins a series of letters with gifts and instructions that get increasingly more lavish and bizarre until she finally gets her answers that leads to even more disturbing choices.
Part of what makes this film so effective is that Giroux's performance enables us to enter into Nicole's psyche as we experience her spiritual conflict about her private miseries even as we appreciation what she does have. That makes that letter writer feel so seductive as Nicole is pulled in irresistibly with the sheer mystery of it, which is given an enthralling visual cue as the text appears around as she reads. As the stakes rise and the requests become ever stranger, you are left wondering whether Nicole is being sucked into an abyss that will destroy her. Along the way, Giroux creates a life journey with touchingly funny touches as she is led out of her comfort zone as she tries out a gun range, a fancy new dress and scouts out a stranger her corespondent wants her to shadow.
Unfortunately, when that letter writer is finally revealed, the story takes a less enticing flavour as he reveals his true intentions behind the letters, leaving Nicole with a strangely agonizing moral decision. Now, the story revolves around how much as this woman has changed and what she is willing to do. That in itself is a intriguing plot thread, but it lacks the compelling mystery with the letters. Still seeing Nicole making her choices and finding friends and hidden answers where she least expects them will push you along; unfortunately it's for an climax that feels too conventional. That said, the very end has a real punch as the true emotional cost of her adventure finally hits home even as her shaken family comes together.
All in all, discovering a film like this, warts and all, is worth a Sunday night's ticket.