Directed by Mark Sawers
Written by Mark Sawers and Doug Barber
Cast: Nicolas Wright, Gerard Plunkett, Crystal Balint, Hilary Jardine, Fref Keating
I’m a big ol’ nerd about movies (duh). More than that I’m a nerd about media (double duh). I am a straight up sucker for movies about making movies (A Cock And Bull Story), or making tv shows (The Truman Show), or even obliquely reference the idea of movies (Inception). Maybe it’s because these movies tend to be made by people obsessed with the process of movie making, but they always end up damn good. Camera Shy (Directed by award winning Canadian Mark Sawers) is no exception to the pattern.
The film has a cunning sense of humor, a distinctive aesthetic, and a totally original premise. It’s as though Sawers and co-writer Doug Barber got sick of watching dumb found footage movies. Those movies usually raise two simple questions (there are exceptions). ‘How are these cameras always filming at just the right time?’ and ‘what would it be like to have cameras like that following you around?’
These are the issues that plague young Vancouvercouncilman Larry Coyle (Nicholas Wright). Camera Shy begins with footage of a press conference, during which Coyle puts his support behind a construction project despite environmental issues surrounding the development. With the support of the mogul behind the coming hotel/casino/mall, Bob Sterling (Gerard Plunkett), Coyle is alerted to the very real possibility of his running for Parliament (I have no idea how the Canadian government works, but it’s not that important to the movie). From the press conference, Coyle goes to a dingy motel and immediately proves that all of his language about family and loyalty was a lie. He takes his assistant (Hilary Jardine) to the bonezone. That is when he sees the cameraman and the movie really begins.
Let’s jump back a little bit. When explaining his viability for Parliament, Coyle says, “what I possess is even more valuable than experience. I’m talking about Optics. These days elections aren’t won or lost by what people read in magazines and newspapers. Print is dead. Now all that matters is what people see, and they only see what gets captured by cameras.” This is where the movie gets its tension. Coyle is obsessed with his self-image. Once the possibility of his growing corruption being shown to the general public is on the table, Coyle starts to freak out.
Coyle is not a great guy when we first meet him. After the tryst with his assistant, Coyle returns home to his wife Jane (Lara Gilchrist) and his adopted Vietnamese children (whom he refers to as “the orphans”). Jane is about to leave, but like the manipulative monster that he is, Coyle convinces her to say by promising to build a swimming pool for the orphans.
Coyle goes to a therapist and learns he has a rare disorder that involves a projection of his ego that acts against narcissistic impulses. What follows is a classic descent into madness. There are murders, lies, blackmail, and more. The film shifts from comedy to drama to political thriller to heist movie back to comedy. This movie definitely knows what it wants to be. Sawers allows the camera to move around and find the best possible shots. The shifting perspectives actually provide the movie with some of its best gags. The cameraman can relocate at any time because, you know, he’s a hallucination.
All in all, this movie succeeds 100%. It takes a concept that could be hard to execute, a found footage movie about a character that can see the cameras, and pulls it off. Camera Shy definitely earns degree of difficulty points. The jokes about the cameraman fade into the background as the characters and narrative direction develops. Instead of using the gimmick to carry the movie, Sawers lets it prop up the beginning of the movie while the details are established. When the movie has its legs under it, the script just gets rolling, and it more than carries the weight. It’s another one to add to the long list of very good movies about movies.