Fans of locally produced and shot films will take pride that O, Brazen Age doesn’t hide that it’s a Toronto produced and set film. Unfortunately, this sentiment isn’t enough to save this film.
Written and directed by Alexander Carson, in his feature-film debut, O, Brazen Age shifts its focus on a small group of friends–played by a cast of Toronto actors–living in Toronto’s west end. The friends, most of whom work in the arts, including actors, photographers and artists, are close knit and in different stages in life: some are married with kids, some are in shifting romances and most are devoted to their respected art. This shifting focus, seemingly Virginia Woolf inspired, is an interesting premise for a cinematic endeavour; however, it hampers the film in two ways: first, the audience doesn’t get to know–or invest any emotional empathy– into any of the characters in any meaningful way; and secondly, the film is so literary in execution that it destroys the cinematic enjoyment of the film.
The film is divided into several chapters, with each chapter representing a different perspective in the friends’ circle. It opens with two friends, returning to Toronto from a Quebec-bound road trip. On their way back, they pick up a pregnant teenage girl who claims her child was immaculately conceived. One of the young men, seemingly convinced by the girl’s claim, starts quoting scripture.
This plotline, however, proves to be short and goes nowhere. The perspective then shifts among the friends’ social circle, including art gallery openings, lovers who meet up only every few months, women who talk to each other about their friendships and parents who meditate on the meaning of parenthood.
The film implodes under its own weight, as the shifting perspectives are so quick that it’s impossible to get to know any of the characters, including both their names or their motives. And the dialogue is overwhelmingly literary; in fact, many of the characters quote literary works, including the Bible and some of the characters’ own writings. Indeed, much of the dialogue that isn’t quoting literary works sounds literary driven.
And O, Brazen Age may very well be intended to be a more literary meditation than a plot-driven character investment. Unfortunately, it makes for a painful experience to watch, both for the lack of connection to characters, none of whom have a presence to create a bond with the audience; and for the overwhelming literary techniques driving what is effectively a visual storytelling experience.
And that’s a shame, because there are seldom any Toronto films that are so proudly local that characters talk about riding the Queen streetcar. Just give me something more to care about.