This Is Why We Fight

I always find it satisfying when a story can successfully create a world from whole cloth. As a kid, the worlds of Harry Potter and Star Wars were fun labyrinths I loved losing myself in. When it’s at its best, This Is Why We Fight offers a pleasantly fleshed-out fictional world, the kind that could easily spill beyond the edges of the frame into other works. In that sense, it’s a flawed but promising debut from an emerging filmmaker.

Fight is the debut feature from University of Winnipeg alumna Madison Thomas. Adapted from her 2012 short of the same name, it stars Justin Otto as Caleb, a drug peddler in a dystopian Canada some 30 years in the future. The world of the film isn’t flashy, but feels like the run-down, rusted-out innards of what was once a functioning society. It’s a pretty damning reality that Winnipeg, shot as-is, can function as a believable post-apocalyptic hell-hole.

Otto is good in the lead role, and a few supporting players are great, namely Dennis Scullard as Jude and Erik Athavale as Davies. However, the rest of the cast leaves something to be desired; it’s distracting that this future society is made up of almost exclusively college-age kids. Maybe this is symptomatic of a lack of diversity amongst local actors. Still, it hurts a film when, instead of being filled with believable characters, it’s seemingly populated with white theatre students.

The film has other shortcomings. It lacks a sense of danger, which is fine until dangerous things need to happen. When they do, they don’t feel earned or believable. The handheld camera work is adequate, but a more inventive visual approach could have pushed This Is Why We Fight into another tier. Instead, I find myself waiting for Thomas to deliver on the promise she shows here.

Published in Volume 69, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 3, 2014)

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