In a cold, wintry town in Newfoundland, a young girl and her father clash as both embark on burgeoning sexualities in Adriana Maggs’s fantastic debut feature. Shawn Doyle (Joey, from HBO’s “Big Love”) plays Ray, a disgraced former hockey player who is now taking care of his two young daughters after the recent divorce from his wife of 20 years. He also has a secret: he’s deeply in the closet, even to himself.
Newcomer Tatiana Maslany (2010 Sundance Special Jury Prize winner) gives a fiery, star-making performance as Ray’s oldest daughter, 13-year-old Ruby. She dreams of nothing but getting out of her small Canadian town to become a model and actress in the United States. She’s rebellious and reckless, clawing her way out of childhood to womanhood in as short an amount of time as possible. She hooks up with her school’s only American student, who appears to be quite a few years beyond her age. She is less interested in him as a person and more if he’s ever met any celebrities.
When Ruby discovers her father and her school’s gym teacher together, it sets off a chain reaction of out of control behavior, including taking “head shot” photos by her trusted family friend Stuart (affectionately referred to as “Uncle Stuart”) that lead to a much more salacious and dangerous situation. Sadly, Ruby doesn’t care that her father is gay; she just wants honesty from her father, honesty that he is unable to provide her, which sets her on that perilous path.
Adriana Maggs’s debut is a solid, exceptional character study that reminded me of Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank from 2009. That also featured a brilliant turn by a young newcomer in Katie Jarvis, playing a girl of budding sexuality dying to get out of her small town. What Maggs succeeds at is the development of both Ruby and Ray as their journeys run parallel and eventually collide in a father-daughter relationship that is honest, realistic and moving.