(Tom Berry, 1988)
Venturing into private-sector coproduction, the NFB issues forth a bizarrely lumpy and compromised variation on their usual naturalistic docudrama. Set in Cape Breton (although the whole cast speaks perfect Toronto English) and dealing earnestly with the issue of Alzheimer's, the presentation emphasizes the usual grainy verite-lite aesthetic, with low-key, character-based dramatics and passing commentary on domestic sexism and the violence of industry. But there's also an effort to inject this kitchen sink stuff with a different kind of populism, the commercial kind, rife with Hollywood high-rollers and high school sweethearts played by Jennifer Dale; things even stop dead at the halfway point for the big Motown production number that gives the film its title. The mesh doesn't take; the schmaltzy, pushy score stomps all over the modest dramatics, and Stefan Wodoslawsky looks lost and miserable in the lead role even though he helped write the script. He certainly can't cut it up against Jan Rubes, as masterfully charming as ever in the role of the afflicted undertaker dad. His big sentimental end speech is genuinely moving, and would have left a nice taste in the mouth if the filmmakers could have just let it be, but instead they piss all over it with a hamfisted opera-style Big Ending that epitomizes the production's unhappy confusion.