Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974
Full length feature films from Canada arc tew and far between, but it 'Going Down the Road is any Indication, quality and not quantity is a phrase still in use somewhere on the earth. Although its season on at the St James was inexplicably short, its modest trappings (tatty billboard posters and minimal advertising) belie a terse, moving and intelligent film well worth seeing if it is ever re-run.
A shoestring budget allows for a singularly modest plot. Two aging Nova Scotians, Dan and George, with their near derelict V8 convertible, go in search of the big money in Toronto only to find that there is no love lost between country boys and opportunity. One job follows another, each worse than the last, until the winter comes and casual labour is the last thing on an employers mind. Desperate folly drives the two men to commit what amounts to aggravated robbery, and leaving Georges seven day city bride behind them, they head futher west.
To some viewers, no doubt, this tale of two lovable illiterates might be a little too reminiscent of John Schlesinger's 'Midnight Cowboy'. But, without being as emotionally engaging, 'Going Down the Road' has far greater respect for its subjects, and is prepared to venture inside its characters and record the changes undergone by them before the assault of the urban monster. And, although it shares with Schlesinger's film, a prevailing attitude of despair, arising from an inability to escape from repeated acts of self prostitution, the eventual refusal to acquiesce reveals a surer grasp of human behaviour and a better understanding of that bitter process so innocuously called urbanisation.
An indication of the strength of Donald Shehib's films is the ease with which his three principals (Doug McGraw, Paul Bradley, Jayne Eastwood) handle their parts. None of them gifted actors, but relishing an excellent script, they build their stereotyped personalities into frail individuals with memorable poignancy, effecting a pathos that even Voight and Hoffman would be hard put to match. The photography is within the long tradition of Canadian National Film Unit austerity.....space, cold and often harsh, the unsentimental images match the unsentimental script with rewarding patience.
But the most heartening thing about this film is the way in which it has travelled. Far from a local expose, the circumstances it relates are circumstances all too frequently in Newtown. Which brings me to the thought that if New Zealand is to one day realise the dream of its own film industry, this is the material of which it could be made, and—in view of our rather platitudinous cinematic history—should be made.