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Sunchaser Pictures
2003 / Color / 1:85 flat letterbox / 102 min. / Street Date ? 2003 / ?
Starring Janet Lane, Gavin Heffernan, Erin Simkin, Yetide Badaki, Denise DePass, Paul Rogic
Cinematography Ben Dally, Sebastian Grobys
Art Direction Janet Lane
Costume Design Niki Schnier
Makeup Samantha Gutterman
Original Music Jon Day
Produced by Sebastian Grobys, Samantha Gutterman
Written Edited and Directed by Gavin Heffernan

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, Expiration rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Good
Sound: Good -
Supplements: trailer, commentary by filmmaker, BTS docu
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: December 7, 2003

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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