Canadian Strain takes place during a recent and specific tipping point in our country – the legalization of cannabis. Through the eyes of Torontonian drug dealer Anne Banting (Workin’ Moms’ Jess Salgueiro), movie goers observe how newly implemented policies (with various asterisks) can transform a society; even if that change happens over the course of a brief time span.
Anne’s marketability plummets, as well as her ability to acquire and move product, and her most loyal customers change their tune due to perks offered by mainstream outlets (Shoppers Drug Mart’s Optimum points program snuffs out Anne’s hopes faster than you can say “Senior’s Day”). After disputing with her own integrity (and coming to terms with how broke she is), Anne secures a job at the CDCBO (Cannabis Distribution and Control Board of Ontario), working closely with ne’er-do-well supervisor Judy (Naomi Snieckus). But even when Anne’s working within the guidelines of these newly established laws, she still encounters hangups with the system.
Despite how charismatic and likeable Salgueiro is in the movie, writer/director Geordie Sabbagh (A Sunday Kind of Love) doesn’t excuse the illegalities of Anne’s occupation. However, he also doesn’t excuse the wishy-washy principals of the Canadian government. Canadian Strain comes from a bitter place, often featuring exasperated characters venting to each other about feeling bamboozled, but the emotions don’t translate as tantrums. Instead, these are passionate discussions carried out by people who are seeking answers and direction.
With A Sunday Kind of Love and now Canadian Strain, Geordie Sabbagh has shown that he’s fascinated by dialogue; and not in a way that suggests that he likes hearing his own writing read out loud. He knows how to make simple exchanges between characters leap off the screen with precision and flavour, which is also made possible by well-directed actors and an efficient editor. This time, because he’s also trying to convey information in this loosely biographical film, Sabbagh sometimes hurls too much exposition and context towards his audience. But, those moments are edged out by how well the film works as a hangout movie due to Anne’s casual deliveries, house calls, and personal chats with her deceased father (Colin Mochrie).
All in all, Canadian Strain is another hit for Sabbagh.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie