The Meaning of Life walks and talks like a conventional weepy melodrama, but it’s much more than a typical tear-jerker. This is a smart and sweet film that reads between the lines. Instead of rattling off a familiar story about a friendly relationship that blooms between a struggling musician (Finn played by Canadian pop artist Tyler Shaw) and a young leukemia patient (Sophie played by Sadie Munroe of CBC’s Workin’ Moms’), The Meaning of Life uses that initial connection to tell a story about the importance of human connection.
Finn, hired by a local hospital as a therapy clown, hits a wall with his first one-on-one performance for an unresponsive and depressed Sophia. But over a couple of interactions, they spark a conversation; Finn even inspires Sophia to start painting again. Sophia’s parents, along with other hospital staff, see a big difference in her attitude, which persuades these people to engage with Finn a bit more – sparking their own reflective conversations. As Finn turns a new page and listens to his own advice to Sophia, he motivates himself to chase his dream career. This also distracts Finn from a surprise break-up with his long-term girlfriend. But even then, with the emotional aid and support from his loyal friend (Jake Raymond), Finn eventually realizes that this heartache can be reevaluated as growth.
The Meaning of Life, a family-friendly flick from North Film Co. (founded by Canadians Cat Hostick and Russ De Jong), receives a wholehearted recommendation. Writer/director Cat Hostick, who perhaps realizes how cheesy her film could read to general audiences, is persistent to focus on the more intimate details that fill the gaps between “feel-good” sentimentality. After seeing so many filmmakers make “safe” films like these for teen crowds, it’s reassuring to see a budding filmmaker go on a separate path. It’s a challenge that pays off well for Hostick, as well as her filmmaking partner cinematographer/editor Russ De Jong.
As an added bonus, The Meaning of Life works as an on-again-off-again musical headlined by Tyler Shaw. Shaw, who has proven to have a welcoming stage presence, is an absolute charmer as the movie’s leading man. Hopefully, this isn’t the last time we see him on screen.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie