Movie Review: Canadian Hippies Reminisce about their Yorkville Days — “A Song for Us”

“A Song for Us” is an inane bordering on insipid Canadian melodrama without the drama.

Its sole saving grace is the hippie nostalgia it wallows in, and the fact that I use “wallow” should tell you that’s praising with faint damnation.

Set in Toronto, writer-director Peter Hitchcock’s debut feature is a rosy, almost conflict-free remembrance of Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood, the hippest, singer-songwriter-friendliest corner of that city in the ’60s. Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot got their start in the “Canadian Haight Ashbury.”

An elderly folk busker gets the attention of a filmmaker (Karen Scobie) making a documentary about homelessness in Toronto. It turns out, he’s somebody her 60somehing mother’s friend (Brian Scott Carleton) used to know. Which means the homeless man is someone her mother (Lisa Kovack) recognizes, too.

Visiting painter-mom’s time-capsule home on Ward Island reveals that “Tom” (Keith McTie) and Mom used to be an item. He may look “beaten and sad” now. But back in the day…

A flashback takes us back to the least edgy, most PG depiction of the swinging, war-protesting, drug-abusing, free-loving ’60s ever committed to film. Mom remembers the day she (Haley Midgette) arrived in Yorkville from London, “and not the one in Ontario,” a folkie with a dream.

Young Tom (Tyson Coady), a popular San Francisco expat dodging the American Vietnam War draft, was a rising star of “the scene.” And that song we heard him busking in the film’s opening credits, “A Song for Us,” might have been his ticket to the Big Time.

Because “Come with me and sing along, this is a song for us” is the sort of thing that sold back then, right?

“A Song for Us” is a movie of drifting conversations and narrative with no more forward motion than a soap bubble in a breeze. We’ve seen enough tough-minded Canadian thrillers and boundary-pushing Canadian comedies that we know the “They’re just too nice” stereotype is easy to send up. Here’s a movie that embraces it, and is all the poorer for it.

“Any chance you’re a vegetarian?” “I’d LIKE to be!”

Too many scenes are aimless, too much of the dialogue is just — that word again — inane and every one of the ’60s references, from drugs to “head shops” to “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” are just cliches.

The acting’s as banal as everything else — line readings that sound like “readings,” “American” accents full of “oot and aboot.”

The film’s opening dedication “For a tribe I knew…..” would ring false if I hadn’t looked up a photo of first-time filmmaker Peter Hitchcock. Gray hair? This looks, sounds and plays like a student film — a very young student’s film.

Rating: unrated, drug use and abuse

Cast: Lisa Kovack, Haley Midgette, Keith McKie, Tyson Coady, Karen Scobie and Brian Scott Carleton

Credits: Scripted and directed by Peter Hitchcock.

Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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