Sleeping Giant is about Adam (Jackson Martin), a 15-year old boy who’s starting to figure himself out, and takes place at Lake Superior one summer. As most coming-of-age films, it starts off as an ordinary summer but eventually becomes a very important one.
One word comes to mind while watching this film: subtle. Except when it comes to the outstanding cinematography and editing. There were a few cuts and visual moments where I felt moved simply by what I saw on screen complimented by the score that lay underneath it. Fuck The Revenant (bonus points for using our slogan), or to a lesser extent, Batman V. Superman, the visuals in this film meant something. I have watched and had a lot of Richard Linklater on my mind as of late (thanks to the really great Everybody Wants Some!!), and I noticed a similarity between both this film and Linklater’s style. Both films shows us simpler moments, and even though this summer is far more eventful than any summer in Boyhood, they feel as if these moments could have occurred after Linklater’s own cameras had stopped rolling.
The Canadian director, Andrew Cividino, and his co-writers, Aaron Yeger and Blain Watters, create characters I could have met during some of my own summer experiences. Mine, probably wouldn’t have been this eventful, but they were people I could have crossed paths with once or twice.
Adam has been coming to this area every summer along with his parents. The house they are in has been a summer house they rented out every summer, but this time, they own it. This summer, Adam befriends Riley (Reece Moffett) and Nate (Nick Serino), cousins. Riley and Nate are rougher and tougher than Adam has ever been. In fact, Adam is still hiding in his shell, trying to become his own person and, at first, they clash in the only way they know how, play fighting on the beach and talkin’ shit about each other. It comes off almost awkwardly and a little intimidating because the film is mostly in Adam’s POV. Adam is scared, so we are as well. Sometimes, the film seems to be a bit more interested in Riley than Adam, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
It becomes very apparent that the film is in Adam’s POV after two distinct moments. The first one is when Adam finds out that his father is having an affair. One night, Riley catches William – Adam’s father – cheating on his wife with a woman who works at the fish store, and the next time we see William, we as an audience do not react. But, when Adam is told about it, we immediately cut to a scene of William barbecuing a trout, and we see him eating the fish with scales and all. It’s disgusting, especially considering that Cividino decides to contrast the two with Linda – Adam’s mother – eating a clean piece of fish. To see the fish bone get stuck in William’s teeth leaves us uncomfortable.
The second moment is when Adam begins to develop a crush on Riley. While both the film and his father attempt to push his affections towards the obvious option, Taylor, who is a girl he’s spent the last few summers talking to and getting to know, he instead develops a crush on Riley. At one point, they play basketball together and Adam purposefully pushes himself into Riley, with a smirk on his face. At another point, he looks at him through a fence and gazes at his muscles. We see a close-up and, at first, I thought it was for the basketball itself, but as the ball exits the frame it is clear that Riley’s arm was the important image.
The way the film subtly pushes these moments are beautiful and incredible. Without judgment, without questioning, it just is. Maybe Adam is just infatuated with Riley and it’s a crush that will last only through summer. But, Adam questions himself, which is why the film never decides to show whether it is or isn’t how he feels. It’s Adam’s POV, and Adam isn’t even sure. Until the end, at dawn, when the sun will soon be rising, with Adam and Riley sitting on a beach staring out at this beautiful moment, Adam turns and looks at Riley instead. Adam is finding and becoming himself.
Sleeping Giant played at multiple festivals last year and also won multiple awards. Nick Serino won an award for Best Supporting Actor at the 4th Canadian Screen Awards and the Best Canadian First Feature Film award at TIFF. Watching this film, it’s very clear why.