Molly Maxwell Reviews
Sara St. Onge's feature debut Molly Maxwell is set at a liberal progressive school, where 16-year-old Molly (Lola Tash) is struggling to find her feet amongst her free-spirited peers. It is assumed that each student is a creative genius in waiting, but Molly lacks inspiration and feels suffocated by these expectations. She eventually finds motivation in her young, attractive English teacher Ben (Charlie Carrick), who encourages her to pursue photography. When Ben reluctantly agrees to mentor her photography project, the two form a close relationship which develops into an awkward, difficult romance. Their relationship progresses naturally and knowingly, with Molly aware of her sexual attractiveness and with Ben cautious of becoming too friendly and intimate with his student. There is initial resistance, but restraint eventually proves a little too much for Ben; though it is made clear that he struggles with the moral implications of his relationship with Molly.
With a film such as Molly Maxwell, success lies heavily on the central characters and the actors who play them. St. Onge has created two realistic leads in Molly Maxwell and Ben Carter. They are flawed and we don't necessarily like them all of the time; it's difficult not to occasionally roll our eyes at Ben's conflicted twenty-something failed musician persona, and we frown upon Molly's disregard of her friends. However there is something reassuringly human about the two characters' naivety and selfishness, and their struggle to do "the right thing". It is refreshing that St. Onge does us a favour by not telling the audience how to feel and allowing us to make our own judgements. This is not a lecture in morality or a cautionary tale about the confused little girl and the predatory older man. Molly's vulnerability is not overstated, nor is she portrayed as a manipulative seductress who lures the poor unsuspecting man into a trap which results in his downfall.
The cast- from students, to teachers, to parents- are impossibly attractive. That aside, there are strong performances by both lead characters and from Molly's well-meaning but nauseatingly liberal parents (Krista Bridges and Rob Stewart). Lola Tash and Charlie Carrick have great screen presence individually, and together their chemistry appears very natural. This is an achievement considering that the film was shot in only 18 days, and St. Onge made the decision to keep them apart until shooting began.
This is a promising debut from Sara St. Onge and it will be interesting to see what she follows it up with. Personally, I'm hoping for something which is both well-written and distinctively set in Toronto, like Molly Maxwell, only with a little more grit.