An Insignificant Harvey ★★★½
(Canada, 79 min.)
Written and directed by Jeff Kopas
Starring: Jordan Prentice, Kristin Adams, Steven McCarthy, Art Hindle.
To call An Insignificant Harvey a “sweet little Canadian film” invites an ignorant pun. For while the film tells the story of a little person named Harvey, there is nothing small about its heart or message.
An Insignificant Harvey stars Jordan Prentice (In Bruges) in the title role. As the title further suggests, Harvey feels his place in this world is of little size and stature. A child reared in an orphanage, Harvey grows up a hermit, feeling loved by nobody. He spends his life working the night shift as a caretaker at the local ski lodge, and he spends his days touring the ski village, watching life through the viewfinder of his super 8 camera. He also lives alone in a small trailer, which is another symbol of his cold isolation, almost like a small steel garrison protecting him from the cold Canadian countryside. It seems there’s no companion for Harvey in this small town.
Then one day, Harvey stumbles upon a mate. It’s a beautiful husky, whom Harvey quickly befriends. The pooch follows Harvey everywhere: to work, from work, even home. Then Harvey’s heater breaks down one cold winter’s night and he hears the doggy whimpering outside his door. Harvey lets the dog into his life and the husky warms his heart.
As Harvey brings the dog with him around the village, the pooch proves quite the babe magnet, as she attracts the eye of a local blonde named Dakota Dixon (Kristin Adams from Falling Angels and Where the Truth Lies). It just so happens that Dakota loves dogs, particularly huskies, so she invites Harvey over to her house for some lessons on dog rearing. While the dog, thereafter named Inca, provides a convenient tool to bring Harvey and Dakota together, they soon strike up a close relationship. An exotic dancer by night, Dakota, too, is a misfit. Through her, Harvey learns to let his guard down occasionally and mellow in the pleasures of human connection, rather than through his safe life of seclusion.
Making An Insignificant Harvey consistently endearing is the pairing of Prentice and Adams. Jordan Prentice gives a smart, sensitive performance as Harvey. The natural bubbliness and charisma of Kristin Adams gives a sparkly sheen to Dakota, but like Prentice, she shows the vulnerability of her character, stripping it down to show a heart of gold. Also turning in a great performance is Inca the dog, who adds to the long list of great pooch-performances of 2011, turning in a feat of dog tricks on par with Uggie, the dog from The Artist, or Arthur from Beginners.
The love story between Harvey and Dakota (or even Harvey and Inca) is a sweet, uncontrived tale of letting go of the past, as well as the joyful rewards that come from standing out in the crowd. Kopas provides some strange, yet quirkily attractive dream sequences that explore Harvey’s frail sense of belonging, such as when Harvey faces the wrath of a pious nun or finds himself a raccoon on the run. This feature debut by Kopas is charming and funny; moreover, An Insignificant Harvey avoids wallowing in stereotypes, but it also celebrates the things that set us apart from others and encourages us to see beyond our own little shortcomings and look inside ourselves to see how we can better the lives of others. Set against an upbeat, eclectic soundtrack and nicely shot in the snowy countryside, the film is fun, sweet adventure. An Insignificant Harvey is a small movie with a big heart.
An Insignificant Harvey is currently playing in Ottawa at The Mayfair.
See official website for more dates across Canada