Saturday, June 4, 2022

A Small Fortune: Movie Review

An indie thriller with a great Canadian setting.
A small Canadian thriller from the coasts of Prince Edward Island. A Small Fortune is set in the small fishing town of Skinner’s Pond with few people and fewer jobs. Kevin (Stephen Oates) and wife Sam (Liane Balaban) are expecting a baby; she’s begging him to head out west to find work to bring in money, but he’s content harvesting Irish moss each day bringing in not enough money to live off of. Enter a washed-up bag of money, and a criminal on its trail.   2021

Directed by: Adam Perry

Screenplay by: Adam Perry

Starring: Liane Balaban, Stephen Oates, Andrea Bang, and Matt Cooke

On one hand, this is a uniquely Canadian film. A plot that hinges on our plastic and colourful money, and a soundtrack including Stompin’ Tom Connors since it’s set in his hometown. But on the other hand, this is a universal thriller with a setting that could easily be the shores of Maine or Massachusetts or England, Wales or Scotland. As you’ll know from the plot description or an easy guess based on the set-up, Kevin keeps the money that he unearths from the ocean on one of his daily rakes for moss. The pink of a $50 bill catches his eye, and as he digs for more, he finds a bag full of cash.

His plan - and it’s not a bad plan, but it’s also not a smart one – is to keep the money secret. He comes home with a bigger pay day than his wife was expecting, but just $100 bigger, but also ‘now-we-can-afford-a-lobster-dinner’ bigger; Kevin probably thought he would just keep bringing home a few extra dollars of cash every day for however long it lasted. The scenes of his washing and drying the bills is really nicely done from both a plot perspective and a cinematography one.

Everything in this movie feels so real and human. Which leads me to a line from the police chief, after Kevin has made some big mistakes in his attempts to cover up his tracks, and more money is found, the chief asks new and young Constable Crowe (Andrea Bang) would she keep money that she found? Crowe is inexperienced and determined, and definitely a by-the-books officer. She considers her answer, “If it was just twenty bucks, probably, but if it was much more, I would do the right thing and turn it in.” Our police chief takes this moment to help introduce Crowe to the people of Skinners Pond: “I don’t know a single person in this town who would turn it in.” I like that line a lot because it helps bring Kevin back to an ‘every-man’ character. He’s no different than everyone else in this town. Everyone wants money, not just the most desperate. It’s the level of desperation that makes Kevin make more mistakes in his plan.

The setting and the plot work really well together – a gritty, laid-back town that has seen better days and suddenly there is crime in their backyard. The ending isn’t nearly as engaging as the beginning is and the criminals aren’t as well written, but it is so easy to appreciate how well made this low-budget Canadian film is. Reportedly, A Small Fortune is the largest film produced within Prince Edward Island, and it is both unique and universal, with a tightly written script, enjoyable characters and excellent cinematography. Highly recommended, especially for fans of small thrillers.