There’s a poignant moment in The Age of Adulting when the film demonstrates why local screen stories are must-see viewing.
It happens near the beginning of the film. Two of the main characters — wannabe filmmaker Doug (played by Scott Patey) and disillusioned actor Jason (James Pizzinato) — are lounging on a hillside, surveying Vancouver’s skyline.
Doug had just finished describing the kinds of films he’d make were he to ever get his career off the ground when he snorts in disgust. “No one watches Canadian movies anymore, especially Vancouver ones,” he sighs.
“The city kind of sucks for that sort of thing,” agrees Jason.
It’s an audacious move — inserting brutally honest dialogue about local film in a perfect example of a local film that definitely does not suck. If anything, the film holds up a mirror and reflects back our ugly truths, and it’s a move that works.
The Age of Adultingis about flawed 29-year-olds grappling with existential crises in a flawed city that is itself in a perpetual state of flux. Besides Jason and Doug, there’s Seth, who recently quit his job as a day trader to do yoga and aggressively pursue clean living; Blake, who stocks shelves at the Home Depot, sleeps in a tent in Seth’s living room, and is developing a taste for crack; Sue, who yearns to raise goats and have babies; Jill, who’s looking for something dirtier than her boyfriend’s aggressively clean lifestyle.
The cast includes some of the biggest names in the Vancouver film and TV industry: Jessica Harmon, Andrew Francis, Tyler Johnston, Aliyah O’Brien, Jordana Largy, Diana Bang, Leanne Lapp, Ali Liebert, Elysia Rotaru and Van Helsing star Aleks Paunovic in a scene-stealing turn as Woodrow, a moody thug with a volcanic temper.
Filmmaker Mark A. Lewis set out to tell a story “that reflected a time in my life and the lives of friends in my late 20s,” he says.
It’s a time in life when many people experience a wave of pressure to grow up, have families and build something meaningful.
“For a lot of people, that pressure means heavier drinking and heavier partying,” says Lewis. “They go deeper into it, and it’s no longer fun, and they recognize that it’s no longer fun. Sure, there are moments of fun, but the party is a bit thinner and the feeling of the drugs and the alcohol are heavier.”
We’ve seen this kind of existential angst play out on screen in other films before, but for the most part, these films haven’t been set in Vancouver. The city is an important player in The Age of Adulting; the film’s tagline is “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll in the city of rain.”
“Vancouver is a little bit lost in its identity, like the characters,” says Lewis. “It’s searching for meaning, searching for identity, searching for a history that gives it a sense of belonging. There’s a lot of loneliness in this city. But it’s also a beautiful city. It can get bumpy and ugly, but so many people are going through the same experience that there’s a collective experience of the city trying to find its identity while the people go through the same thing.”
Michael Khazen was 30 when he joined the project as a producer. “[Lewis’s script] absolutely spoke to me,” says Khazen. “I’ve never seen Vancouver explored in any creative narrative that raw and honestly. It’s this sordid tale of so many wonderfully flawed characters and it felt so real.”
The Age of Adultingwas conceived and filmed as a six-part web series. The team made the decision to edit and distribute it as a feature film shortly after they’d finished filming in summer 2015.
It screened at the Vancity Theatre in April and hit digital streaming platforms earlier this month. The episodic version will hit the ’net next year.
Khazen hopes Vancouverites who watch The Age of Adulting will recognize these kind of Canadian stories can work.
“We don’t need to shy away from showing the underbelly of our world. It’s captivating and it’s flawed and it’s real,” he says. “Canadian cinema has the ability to tackle these types of subjects and do it in a manner that’s entertaining and true to our society.”
The Age of Adultingis available for purchase and rental on iTunes. Amazon, Vimeo, and Google Play. Details at theageofadulting.com.