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Oliver Sherman (2010)

by on 2012/07/30

“Everything takes seven years. A serious illness, a broken heart, you name it. Anything bad takes seven years to come to terms with.”

* * *

During my youth, my father developed a habit of taking in hard luck cases. They were grizzled guys who lived in our basement, detoxing from bad drinking benders or staying with us until they “worked things out” with their wives.

I was a nervous kid to start with. The idea that “Dan” or “Steve,” slept steps away, suffering from delirium tremens, was not a comforting thought. These guys, to a one, seemed to me like ticking time bombs, ready to go off. And there they were, inside the house.

Oliver Sherman brought back that creeping sense of unease perfectly. Directed by Ryan Redford, this 2010 film shot in Chisholm, Ontario, is ostensibly about soldiers adjusting (or not adjusting) to civilian life after wartime.

The film stars Garrett Dillahunt (The Assassination of Jesse James) as Sherman Oliver, Donal Logue (Blade) as Franklin Page, and Molly Parker (Men With Brooms) as Franklin’s wife Irene. It is a mostly interior drama, a quiet study of rural life.

When you drive by those rustic country homes along the highway and you are like me, you might wonder what life is like inside them. I think Oliver Sherman gets pretty close to the truth of those little worlds. Gossip, barbeques, conformity, petty dramas in the grocery store, suffocating insularity. It is all there in this film.

Franklin plays a family man who came back from the war, and successfully built a happy family with a wife and kids. Franklin saved a life during combat, and that life he saved comes back to him in the form of Sherman Oliver.

Scarred, tightly wound, awkward, profane, Oliver comes for a visit to thank Franklin and stays. And stays. And stays.

Cue the menace.

Unable to fit into the quiet little town due to his heavily-armed drinking benders and tendency to yell “cocksucker” when he stumbles, Oliver is a man without a place to go. He doesn’t fit. His mind is scrambled by a serious war injury, so much so that he wasn’t sure if his name was Sherman Oliver or Oliver Sherman.

His gratitude toward Franklin curdles slowly into jealousy.

Dillahunt is crazy perfect as a crazy guy, enough to make me wonder if there isn’t something seriously wrong with him in real life. Logue is sympathetic as a guilt-ridden family man and Parker is interesting to watch as an uptight wife and mother.

If you want to recreate the quiet discomfort of that Thanksgiving where your insane drunken uncle punched your neighbour in the mouth, this is your film. Oliver Sherman is a solid work of Canadian cinéma vérité.

* * *

Rated PG for drinking, drunkenness, missing fingers, kids with knives and swearing

82 minutes

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