Poutine and a Poncho

I’m Yours
(Canada, 79 min.)
Written and directed by Leonard Farlinger
Starring: Rossif Sutherland, Karine Vanasse, Don McKellar.
Never trust a sexy French Canadian in a poncho. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, Robert (Rossif Sutherland) spies an intriguing little hottie (Karine Vanasse) checking him out from the corner of a posh Manhattan nightclub. Robert’s friend, Phil (Don McKellar), gives him some urinal-side advice and tells him that going after the hottest girl in the bar is just a pipe dream. As Robert exits the men’s room, though, said hottie grabs him by the tie and lays a big wet kiss on his lips. “That’s in case I never see you again,” she says.

Her name is Daphne. She proves Phil’s logic incorrect by accepting Robert’s offer for a nightcap. The two hit it off and share rounds of scotch and some intimate confessions that they capture through the fuzzy video-filter of Robert’s mobile phone. Daphne has all the right charms; Daphne has all the right moves. Daphne even has a little baggie of ecstasy, and her little white pills prompt a wild, passionate night of lovemaking. Happy Birthday Robert!
However. The next morning sees Daphne rummage through Robert’s bag. It holds many wads of cash of $10 000 USD each. Offering the bit of eccentricity that one should note from Daphne’s woolly grey poncho, she takes Robert’s money and steals his car.

Daphne is not altogether a bad person since she kidnaps Robert, too. As she later rationalizes to him, she could have left him in his ecstasy-induced stupor at the motel. Robert awakens as the car approaches the Canadian border. Daphne quickly tells him to act as if they’re engaged. The plan is simple: Robert must accompany Daphne to North Bay where he will meet her parents and moonlight as her fiancé. If he does that, then Daphne will return the money.
As Daphne and Robert wind their way up to North Bay along the Trans-Canada Highway, I’m Yours follows the amiable, refreshing troupe of the road movie and of the symbolic nature of the journey. Both the travellers are running away from something. Being on the lam offers an easy out, but as the pair approaches North Bay, the reality of their past choices start to hit closer to home and their new travel companion forces some much needed reflection and self-discovery.

Karine Vanasse shines as the bubbly, slightly off-kilter Daphne. Vanasse is surprisingly funny and is just the right mix of mad and gooey-eyed to make one see what Robert finds so appealing. Daphne’s a hot mess to be sure, but there’s a method to her madness that’s irresistibly charming. The role is quite the reversal of Valérie, Vanasse’s strong-willed survivor in Polytechnique (for which she won Best Actress at the Genies), and it’s the actress’s first English-language lead role, although it’s not her first Anglophone credit (see: French Immersion and Midnight in Paris).
Less charming, however, is the tedious route that I’m Yours takes to reach its destination. The symbolism of the trip works, but writer/director Leonard Farlinger too frequently indulges in meandering intercuts of the Great Canadian Landscape. One almost expects the film to end with a title card that reads “Visit Canada.” Likewise, as Robert and Daphne share a big steaming plate of poutine or observe flocks of Canada Geese, I’m Yours is just a bit too self-conscious in its love for Canadian content. If one compares the Canuck citations to, say, Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, one sees a strong difference in successfully imbuing a film with a tangible sense of place. There is a difference between honoring a film’s cultural context and fetishizing it, and all the Canadiana of I’m Yours seems unnecessarily gratuitous.

I’m Yours is one of those unfortunate cases in which a thumb wiggles between up and down and can’t really seem to point moviegoers in either direction. A few minor bits of sloppiness reveal themselves and distract from the continuity of the film. For example, one scene sees Daphne a reference Sunday school, but the subsequent shot shows a school bus whiz by in the background. Likewise, the same old lady acts as a background player in both visits to the North Bay bus station: she may be the North Bay equivalent of The Duke of Westboro (i.e. that elderly person whose occupation is simply to be a permanent figure), but her repeat appearance could simply be carelessness. Overall, though, there is nothing particularly bad about I’m Yours, but aside from Vanasse’s performance, the film is a bit too bland to merit a ringing endorsement. Like Daphne’s poncho, the film looks nice but it’s also rather shapeless. 

Rating: ★★½ (out of ★★★★★)

I'm Yours is currently playing in Ottawa at Rainbow Cinemas St. Laurent.

*Photos courtesy eOne Films