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Last updated: August 20, 2005
Copyright 2006 Michael R. Colford.
All rights reserved

 

Rough Cut: EXPIRATION

by Michael R. Colford
 
First-time director Gavin Heffernan writes and stars in this overly-ambitious "out-all-night" film with mixed results. Given the difficulties that low-budget, independent films face today, the very fact that EXPIRATION exists is certainly an impressive feat. The twenty-three year old director juggles an extensive casts, many of whom are unprofessional actors from McGill University, and over 70 unique locations, including Montreal, New York, and Mexico.

Niki and Sam are best friends, and in an awkward opening scene, she tells him that she is pregnant and that he is the father. A rummage through an old trunk in the attic, and a conversation with his mother leads Sam to embark on what he feels is the noble thing to do. Despite setting up a romantic dinner in the city, and being prepared with the engagement ring that his absent father presented to him mother, Sam can't quite get the words out, and the proposal goes unspoken. From there Niki and Sam find themselves separated and caught up in circumstances well beyond their experience.
Gavin Heffernan
director Gavin Heffernan
 
Sam is held up in a convenient store, where he is robbed of his mother's ring. Also a victim of the robbery is Rachel, who is biding time before a particularly lucrative drug deal. Unfortunately, her bag with the drugs is what she loses to the thief. Meanwhile, Niki is recovering from an upset stomach, and finds herself wandering the city, lost and harassed by a man who thinks she is a prostitute. She finds unlikely assistance from Julia, and becomes embroiled in a family drama with faint echoes of her own situation.
 
The increasingly bizarre antics these three characters face is reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's AFTER HOURS, with the notable difference being the central character. In After Hours, Griffin Dunne's Paul Hackett is tossed from situation to situation unable to control his actions, or the actions around him. Heffernan's Sam seems ever in control, even when in way over his head. It's a bit disconcerting, and rings of script contrivances to maniuplate a greater plot. By focusing on what he desires as an end result, Heffernan occassionally takes shortcuts through his script to get there. Why do Sam and Rachel need a password to gain entrance to a lesbian wedding? Just to have an amusing scene with a homeless man outside the club?
 
a scene from EXPIRATION
 


The acting surprises, especially after a particularly wooden opening scene between Erin Simkin's Niki and Heffernan's Sam. Janet Lane is the noticeable talent here (she is also presumably the most experienced, with a small role in CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND under her belt). Her disaffected, cynical drug-dealer Rachel is smart, funny, and believable as she once more finds compassion in her heart. Denise Depass' Julia, and Yetide Bedaki as her 17-year-old daughter Naomi, handle their difficult dramatic roles with considerable aplomb. And Heffernan and Simkin warm up as well, with Heffernan's 'aw-shucks,' naivete working best when he's not trying to deliver a joke, and Simkin conveying her weary resignation subtly and convincingly. Christine Heffernan shines in two brief scenes as Sam's mother.

As a writer, Heffernan's greatest strength was in allowing his characters to slowly unfold, and show the viewer their many facets gradually, and when appropriate. He clearly and succesfully subscribes to the 'show, don't tell' school of thought, and all his major characters follow convincingly realistic growth scene from EXPIRATIONarcs. The visuals were handled surprisingly well, with intriguing