- 1 hr 27 min
Waydowntown, a Canadian film from 2000 directed by Gary Burns, is a provocative satire about corporate culture, consumerism, boredom, and the human psyche. Shot in a minimalist and absurdist style that is reminiscent of the movies of Luis BuÃ±uel and Jean-Luc Godard, Waydowntown follows the lives of several young office workers who make a bet to see who can go the longest without leaving the insular confines of their downtown high-rise building.
The film opens with a scene that establishes the tone and mood of the story. A young woman named Sandra (Marya Delver) stares out of her cubicle window at the seemingly endless expanse of concrete and glass that surrounds her. She fidgets with her pen, types out meaningless emails, and listens to the inane conversations of her co-workers. She is bored, restless, and disillusioned with her life, but she cannot imagine leaving her job or her city. This sense of ennui pervades the entire film and serves as a metaphor for the characters' predicament.
As the plot unfolds, we meet the other office workers who are part of the bet. Curt (Fab Filippo) is a hapless and insecure young man who is obsessed with winning the bet and impressing his colleagues. Randy (Tobias Godson) is a boisterous and cynical salesman who mocks Curt's ambition and boasts about his own success. Tom (Don McKellar) is an enigmatic and reclusive accountant who seems to have no interest in the bet or in socializing with his peers. Lastly, there is Sandra's boyfriend, Kris (Gordon Currie), who is the only one who seems to share her sense of restlessness and malaise.
The film takes place over a period of five days as the characters struggle to survive the monotony of their office jobs and resist the temptations of the outside world. As they try to outlast one another, they undergo a gradual transformation that is both comedic and tragic. They become more isolated, more paranoid, and more desperate as their sense of identity and purpose is stripped away. Meanwhile, the building itself takes on a life of its own, as the characters become increasingly absorbed in its labyrinthine corridors, escalators, and elevators.
One of the strengths of Waydowntown is its ability to convey a sense of claustrophobia and disorientation without resorting to traditional horror movie tropes. The building itself is a character in the film, and it seems to exert a malevolent influence over its inhabitants. The constant hum of the air conditioning, the flickering fluorescent lights, and the mazelike layout of the floors all contribute to the surreal and unsettling atmosphere. At the same time, Burns injects moments of absurd humor and whimsy that lighten the mood and prevent the film from becoming too heavy-handed.
The performances in Waydowntown are uniformly excellent, and the cast has a natural chemistry that makes their interactions feel authentic. Fab Filippo, in particular, shines as Curt, the hapless protagonist whose desperate attempts to win the bet are both hilarious and pitiable. Don McKellar, who also wrote the screenplay, is typically enigmatic as Tom, the accountant with a secret agenda. Marya Delver delivers a nuanced performance as Sandra, the only character who seems to retain a sense of humanity and compassion amidst the madness.
Ultimately, Waydowntown is a film that poses challenging questions about the nature of modern life and the effects of urban isolation. It is a film that rewards close observation and thoughtful engagement, and it is a testament to the power of independent cinema to explore difficult issues with wit, style, and depth. If you are a fan of absurdist or surrealistic cinema, or if you simply enjoy films that challenge your assumptions and make you think, then you should definitely check out Waydowntown.