ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
If you could skip all the angst of high school, would you? Not Liam (Daniel Doheny), the homeschooled hero of new indie rom-com Adventures in Public School. This Cambridge-bound future astronomer, with his sweet vulnerability, only enters the brick-and-mortar school intending to ace his high-school equivalency exam – that is, until he spots Anastasia (Siobhan Williams), the popular one-legged girl.
“Walking through those doors is going to change my life forever – like some supernova explosion of love,” opines Liam in the trailer. Now he needs to convince his helicopter mom that his do-over (after deliberately failing) involves attending classes in this “institution of low expectations” and “mediocrity”.
From American Pie to The Breakfast Club, the fish-out-of-water in high school has been a source of comedy gold but Adventures offers a fresh twist – the love story at its heart is the one between mother and son as she hilariously supports his bid for independence and the girl. Director and co-writer, Kyle Rideout says he wanted to focus in on this relationship where instead of typical complaints about parents, this teen’s mother is his best and only friend.
“How far can we go if she’s trying to teach him about rebellion and keep him safe? It’s coming from a place of heart,” he points out, because her own life went in a different direction than she wanted with her teen pregnancy. She’s trying to right those mistakes through how she raises her son.
Doheny’s breakout performance as Liam has been compared by Variety to Tom Hanks’ early work. “Daniel was incredible,” says Rideout, explaining auditions were held cross-country. “He came from the theatre world. We asked to bring him in for our Vancouver casting directors and he really blew us away.”
As a director, Rideout relies on the acting background he balances with filmmaking. He has worked with co-writer and producer Josh Epstein since both performed in Kevin Kerr’s play Studies in Motion, later adapted as their first feature, biopic Eadweard.
“Both Josh and I knew some homeschooled kids,” say Rideout of the spark for this second feature. The creative duo talked to teens and parents to inspire ideas. The concept became more grounded: originally Liam lived in the woods and his best friend was a bear.
They developed the story over two years through their company, Motion 58 Entertainment and via programs including Comedy Lab and Features at Canadian Film Centre (CFC), all “fantastic at getting the project out there – without them it would have been a bigger struggle.”
Despite their success with distribution, comedy doesn’t always travel. “What we find funny here in Canada,” explains Rideout, may not translate to audiences in Australia or Japan, whose experience of homeschool may differ.
“Kyle just began the theatrical run on April 27, so our little cinema is a first-run theatre this weekend,” says cousin Sandi Rideout, thanks in part to Wickaninnish Inn donating accommodation.
Director and producer will host a Q&A with Saturday May 12th’s screening at Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre.
Tofino theatre projects into the future (Mar.5, 2018)
Chris Hemsworth goes surfing in Tofino (Mar.19, 2018)