Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
People don't shop around scripts any more; most of North America instead seems to be making
independent movies with their DV cameras, hoping to grab the brass ring and come up with something
watchable by more than their close circle of friends. Few do, and most are films one suffers
through or doesn't finish.
Expiration is an exception. It's a small character-oriented Canadian production made
with lots of care and more than a little talent. After a slow opening the situation gathers
momentum and we're soon involved in an After Dark - like nocturnal odyssey with a half-dozen
characters we really care about going through a surprising series of encounters and discoveries.
The picture should get serious industry attention, at the very least for its convincing cast
members. One of the leads is the director and the leading lady doubles as the film's designer.
Savant reviewed Expiration based on a letter from one of its producers.
It has a website: Sunchaser Pictures, where I
believe copies can be ordered. The site also has screening info, but I didn't see any upcoming dates.
Niki (Erin Simkin) tells her friend Sam (Gavin Heffernan) she's pregnant. He
reluctantly prepares to offer him her mom's engagement ring but at the restaurant has trouble
finding the right words. When she gets sick in the car, he leaves her there to go to a drugstore and
loses the ring to a thief who robs the store. Rachel (Janet Lane) was robbed as well, and
her reason for finding the thief is even more pressing - he took a bag of drugs she was to deliver,
and her life is probably forfeit if she doesn't get it back. Meanwhile, Niki drifts away from Sam's
car and finds more trouble for herself in a nearby park.
Expiration is a DV production with the expected DV production values. I couldn't make out
all of the dialogue, but I liked what I heard very much. The acting was particularly natural and the
ensemble assembled for the show meshed quite well. It's a story about 20 somethings, but it has some
gravity to it, and even when events are contrived (this is one of those night-long rondelays where
coincidence plays a hand) the tone and pitch of what we see rings true.
Mr. Heffernan is a reasonably engaging actor but his direction shows a keen ability to tell a
story simply and clearly. Once the nighttime adventure gets rolling we're hooked, and the story
unspools very smoothly.
Scenes that sound like one-act-play clichés here seem natural as the two unlikely searchers
for stolen items encounter a bunch of characters they normally wouldn't: the parents of an
out-of-control thief, a prostitute, her alienated daughter, a suicidal drug freak.
Heffernan's script has some subtle character parallels that he allows to unfold naturally instead of
pushing them at us. The pregnant girl interacts with another woman's unhappy child. The hero finds
one of his favorite quotations written in a diary belonging to his prey, the thief. Both Sam and
Niki independently interact with the same group of characters. Heffernan knows
how to link these bits into a tapestry that enriches a good story. By the time we get to the
dramatic, 'profound' moment on top of a Toronto highrise, we've been won over, and we accept the
contrivance as a natural development.
Most DVD features show young filmmakers aping their favorites, doing third-hand
imitations of Tarantino. Heffernan allows his characters to be natural and behave in a natural
manner, thereby making them his own instead of somebody else's. Just about the only That's What He's
After moment I picked up on was a wrapup recap of ancillary characters set to a song as in
Magnolia. Placing both pictures in their proper context, it's the Anderson film that's
insufferably forced. Expiration does have a few cutaways to home-movie footage I could have
done without, but that's about the only negative I found with the director's entire approach.
Expiration is what it is, a small homemade movie, but it knows its scale and
has its own integrity. It should
garner respect from other big-time wannabes. More than that, it's the exceptional film that
really deserves professional attention. These filmmakers don't need 'encouragement' - all of the
creatives at work here are ready for bigger things. It sounds like producer Samantha Gutterman
is handling the promotion well - if I were her I'd let casting directors know about the show
too. If any serious filmmakers in casting mode read this, they'd do well to inquire at the
URL above. Note: I don't know any of these people, nor do I have any motive to tout their
film except the experience of seeing it.
The screener disc I previewed is nicely produced, with a good non-enhanced image. I've seen prettier
and sharper DV images, but these more than suffice. At least the video isn't filled with
purposely-degraded images trying to intimidate/impress us. The image
above is apparently a theatrical poster, not the DVD box cover. The disc extras
include a trailer pitched for maximum attention-getting, a commentary by the filmmaker and a
BTS docu that shows the film in production and the aspirations of the people making it. Unlike
other, similar shows that have been forced on me, the filmmakers seem like people one would
want to meet.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Sound: Good -
Supplements: trailer, commentary by filmmaker, BTS docu
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: December 7, 2003
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson