God knows some families are screwed up and the family in Roger's Pass is no different. Writer/director Colin Askey's debut film blends light-hearted humour with a touching and engaging narrative.
The film's main character, Dustin Johnson (Hans Longo), is an aspiring artist but in the words of his brother Dave (Josh Bertwistle), "All you paint are ninjas!"
The heart of the film focuses on Dustin's father Roger Johnson (James D. Hopkin) and his battle with cancer. As the titular character, Roger is shown as a person who cared for his family in his own way. We see a man who tries to make amends with his youngest child, Dustin. Roger receives respect and affection from both fans and friends throughout the film.
Roger's Pass follows Dustin's eventual realization of what his family means to him. Right off the bat you learn how strange his family is -- from a hippie aunt to a new-age step dad. The ability for Askey to deal with such serious subject matter that is so close to his heart says worlds about him as a person, but it also shows how gifted he is as a director. The film's story line mirrors his fathers struggle and eventual death. Throughout the film, heavy moments are broken up by the levity and humour provided by props, such as paintings of ninjas with their penises hanging out or by the awkward dialogue between family members. As we see more interaction between his family and friends the more it endearing the film and its cast of quirky characters become.
Roger's Pass was filmed in Calgary with recognizable landmarks and landscapes. Askey does an excellent job portraying the city through panorama shots of the downtown core at night, as well as our surrounding beauty during his scenes in the mountains. The cinematography might be simple but it delivers what it needs to effectively. The single quibble I had with this film was how shaky the close up shots tend to be. Though not terrible, the shakiness does distract from the overall cinematography of the film.
The film shows that Askey can successfully walk that fine line between humour and drama, which is such a hard balance to strike. It's clear that the story he recounts is both personal and heartfelt and overall the film does the spirit of his dad justice.