Sweetpea (Dree Hemingway) is taking drastic
measures to break up with her current boyfriend, rock star Jamie
(François Arnaud). In France shooting a video for his band, Sweetpea
travels across the globe to surprise him with this news, but when she
arrives, he has gone missing from the video shoot. At first, she thinks
he’s figured out what’s going to happen and is hiding in the woods until
she leaves so he can avoid the moment. Nobody seems to be very helpful
in her search and it feels like something very odd is happening. Mak
(Jai West), a local guide, starts to aid her in her search, but even he
seems to be hiding something and it seems like Sweetpea will never get
the answers she wants.
Written and directed by Nadia Litz, The People Garden
is beautifully shot and works slowly through its uncomfortable story.
While not made explicit, the forest they’re in is known for suicides,
but everybody maintains that Jamie has simply wandered off to be alone,
perhaps even leaving entirely just to get away from Sweetpea. From the
first minute, things just don’t feel right though, and we can tell
there’s a lot more going on than anybody is willing to say.
It’s this uneasiness with every single character that keeps you on
the edge of your seat. Even the kind Mak seems like he’s carrying a dark
secret, and you can’t imagine there being any hope in finding Jamie
safely. Signe (a small role played by Pamela Anderson), a model on the
video shoot and someone Sweetpea suspects has been sleeping with Jamie,
says it best when she informs Sweetpea that maybe she doesn’t always
need to know everything. This early moment of dialogue lets us know that
we won’t be finding out all the secrets of The People Garden, which leads to an ending that doesn’t fully satisfy.
The important questions are answered, but it doesn’t feel completely
fulfilling. There’s a lot we don’t learn about the characters
surrounding Sweetpea, and you’ll be desperate to figure it all out. Most
of this mystery swirls around Mak. We’re never given a complete picture
of why he’s there or exactly what he’s doing, and it gnaws at you when
the credits roll. Although we may be left with more questions than we
would prefer, The People Garden still manages to get
under your skin for the entire film. It’s spooky without trying to jump
out and scare you, and has some incredibly emotional moments throughout.
It’s great Canadian cinema all around, and shouldn’t be missed out on.
Is The People Garden opening weekend worthy?
Great atmosphere and an unsettling mystery with fantastic
performances makes this one to watch. The ending may not satisfy
everybody, but that’s a minor problem in such a wonderful film.
The People Garden opens Tuesday, May 10, 2016 and runs for 3 days at TIFF Bell Lightbox before opening Friday, May 13, 2016 at Carlton Cinema.