Canadian indie cinema made its mark on the OXIFF with We're Still Together, written, directed and edited by Jesse Klein. The film tells the story of Chris, who has been kicked out by his mum and bullied by his classmates. During one such incident of bullying, he is rescued by Bobby who takes him on a journey through Montreal. They move through bars and parties, visiting Bobby's estranged family and meddling in Chris' love life.
Viewing We're Still Together is an odd, at times disorientating experience. The film moves through tonal shades often mid-scene. Where an interaction may seem to be innocent, it can quickly shift, reflecting the unstable nature of our central protagonists. At the film's best it is an interesting, intimate dive into urban fragmentation. At the film's worst, the swift shifts in the nature of the film, say from sweet teen romance to disturbing stalker territory, leave the audience uncomfortable and it at times distracts from the viewing experience. The world of We're Still Together is a challenging one; intimate conversations in a diner, barbed questions at a house party, brutal truths in the family home.
Yet at the heart of We're Still Together are a pair of performances that just about make it through the pinball-like nature of the film. Jesse Camacho gives a subtle, nuanced performance as Chris, the lonely soul at the centre of the film. It is one of the better representations of the agony of being a teenager in recent years. The other half of the duo is Bobby, and Joey Klein brings a charisma to this role that allows him to elevate above his more troublesome actions in the film. Klein manages to keep the character likeable throughout and the film is propelled forward by the actor's energy. Camacho and Klein are ably supported by the ensemble that flits in and out of the film's focus. Particular standouts are Eve Harlow, as Chris' potential love interest, and Diana Bentley, as Bobby's wife. Both are accomplished performances that enhance the narrative strands they accompany.
The film has a grounded, naturalistic look that still manages to draw out the beauty of Montreal. The strange energy of proceedings is emulated by the technical elements, chief of them being the cinematography and editing, giving the film an unpredictable quality that matches its narrative. At its core We're Still Together works because of its central duo, managing to surpass the frustration caused by the film's erratic nature. The film feels like a fascinating dive into the Canadian indie scene, and shows what OXIFF brings to the Oxford cultural scene.
Accompanying We're Still Together were four short films. Starting with Backstory which was a genuinely interesting and powerful exploration of a life lived. Over a few minutes it told an entire marrative, taking in the highs and lows, the loves and loses of a life. This was followed by Shopping: a fine short that goes to an odd, unexpected place but feels like it has both too much to say and not enough to say. I Am Dyslexic, which won the festival award for Best Student Film, was an interesting take on an important subject and showed commendable dedication to telling a necessary story. Hopefully their win will embolden the makers to keep exploring and representing dyslexia. Finally Take My Heart Away was a charming music short with a hopeful message and a distinctive look.