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The Husband: Toronto Review

The Husband TIFF Still - H 2013
TIFF

The Bottom Line

Near-comic drama handles dark psychological material with a light touch.

Venue

Toronto International Film Festival, Special Presentation

Cast

Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Sarah Allen, August Diehl, Stephen McHattie

Director

Bruce McDonald

Maxwell McCabe-Lokos and Sarah Allen star in the drama about a man who struggles to deal with his wife having sex with a minor.

TORONTO — It's not uncommon for movies (or TV shows, like The Good Wife) to feature women grappling with the aftermath of scandals their husbands caused. Far more unusual is a film like The Husband, whose humiliated protagonist doesn't merely have a wife in jail -- she's there because she cuckolded him with a 14-year-old boy. Bruce McDonald's film nimbly steps between black comedy and psychological disaster; though it lacks marquee names to help sales, the Toronto production is thoroughly accessible and could play well in art houses, provided marketing doesn't present it as the spare, glum affair it might've been in other hands.

Maxwell McCabe-Lokos plays Henry, whose wife, Alyssa (Sarah Allen), is near the end of her prison sentence. (Not only was the boy a minor, he was her student.) He visits her regularly, if joylessly, with their infant son; though he's doing what a supportive spouse would do, it's clear they have much unresolved business between them.

Shuffling around in a pronounced slouch, he's on the edge at work (counseling is tactfully suggested and angrily refused) and a hermit in his social life -- until, at a stoplight one day, Henry sees the boy who slept with his wife. Suddenly life has purpose, though that purpose is mysterious to us. His first actions are not those of a revenge-minded man, or are they?

As Henry stalks the kid, Colin (Dylan Authors), McCabe-Lokos is as exaggeratedly manic as he was overly morose in earlier scenes. Pizzicato strings in the score and a reliance on emotional seventies pop wryly underlines Henry's ordeal (as the cheesy Bee Gees cover croons, "you don't know / what it's like / to love somebody...") without going so far as to mock his pain. Even as Henry's over-the-line behavior attracts rebuke from his friend Rusty (August Diehl), who teaches at Colin's school, the film's energy suggests that maybe, just maybe, the confrontation he seeks will wind up being emotionally productive in some way.

In the meantime, Henry has to suffer some pretty hard stuff: hallucinations of the boy and his wife happy together, jealous tantrums in public places, a brief impulse to abandon his child. But the actor manages not to lose our sympathy, and the screenplay (by McCabe-Lokos with Kelly Harms) finds a credible way of reconciling the film's opposing tendencies. It may be impossible to believe that a real-life marriage could withstand this kind of betrayal, but in the world of The Husband, there's hope.

Production Companies: Scythia Films, Phenomenal Films

Cast: Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Sarah Allen, August Diehl, Stephen McHattie, Dylan Authors

Director: Bruce McDonald

Screenwriters: Kelly Harms, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos

Producers: Daniel Beckerman, Cher Hawrysh

Director of photography: Daniel Grant

Production designer: Andy Berry

Costume designer: Sarah Millman

Music: Ian LeFeuvre, Todor Kobakov

Editor: Duff Smith

Sales: XYZ Films

No rating, 80 minutes