Montreal. Childhood sweethearts Sam (Heffernan) and Niki (Simkin) are deep in conversation when Niki reveals she's expecting Sam's child.
Rachel (Lane), a beautiful young woman involved in the supply of drugs is given an important delivery because she'll fulfil the expectations of her boss and his client. Later on, Sam and Rachel - victims of a fateful convenience store heist - will join forces and touch the lives of others during a long, dark night of the soul.
Expiration: a journey that takes onboard a collection of individuals with much in common: Julie (Depass); a 'lady of the night' who comes to the aid of a dazed and confused young woman; her daughter Naomi (Badaki), in need of a guardian angel while mom does a one hour $4,000 trick and Jeremy (Rogic); a man with a mission who opens like Blue Velvet's Frank Booth and ends up high above the city with three witnesses to his own brand of the truth.
During the course of its 100 minute running time, Expiration majors on a multitude of themes and emotions: chance, coincidence, simple twists of fate, friendship, compassion and love, conveyed by a cast who you really do care about. It also takes the narcotics trade as one of its central themes, and admirably avoids the usual cliched scenes and images employed by many more experienced directors.
Refreshingly, this is a film which centres on people rather than powder; on love rather than sex, using inner strength as opposed to sporadic outbursts of bloody violence; a credit to the literate script and some outstanding performances from a team of professionals and amateurs. The script, penned by 23 year old Heffernan, combines humour with more than a few heartrending lines that clearly left a mark on those involved; witness Christine Heffernan's two emotional scenes, which are beautifully played ("We'll look at it in a 100 years, ok?").
Simkin - with probably the most demanding role in the film - delivers an outstanding performance, while Depass and Badaki are both excellent as mother and daughter. Heffernan is also right on the money, getting under the skin of a character who goes with the flow but also makes things happen when the time is right. However, it's Heffernan's leading lady who sits on top of the pile, and while her lines are delivered with exactly the right degree of warmth or coldness, it's her extraordinary visage that lingers in the memory: each glance and expression telling its own story; every action and gesture seemingly controlled by her eyes. I think Janet Lane would have been a wow in those great silent movies.
Of course, Expiration does occasionally remind us we're watching an amateur production, with a learning curve cast and crew sometimes making it up as they go along - quite remarkable, given the extreme lack of funds available. Like many good independent films, Expiration stays close to its audience, but also uses a larger canvas than is usually the case for such projects. Check out the scene where Paul Rogic's Jeremy pays the lady for the drugs and takes us high above the city for.... well, all I'll say is this beautifully shot set-piece plays to the strains of 'Nessun Dorma' and is, quite simply, the best 7 minutes of cinema I've seen this year: sometimes, out of death comes new life and renewed lives.
The Expiration DVD includes a directors commentary track, with Gavin Heffernan flying solo. Heffernan begins by declaring the track is being recorded just 4 hours after the final cut was made, and lays the ground rules, explaining his audio track will concentrate on the making-of aspects as opposed to a scene specific approach. While this may disappointment those seeking insight regarding mood and motivation of the characters and plot, it's an absorbing talk that rightly honours the efforts of those who worked for nothing because they believed in the film.
Heffernan is refreshingly candid when it comes to highlighting areas that didn't work as well as he'd intended, and is always ready to acknowledge influences; both intentional and accidental. The Godfather, Castaway and The West Wing are all mentioned, along with the likes of Bergman, Wilder and Fellini: I'd also add P.T. Anderson, Darren Aronofsky and Harmony Korine; the latter's Julien Donkey Boy came to mind during that wonderful roof top scene.
The DVD also includes the theatrical trailer - which reminds us of the skilful editing employed in the main feature - and there's also a 12 minute featurette where Heffernan, Lane and Depass are interviewed: Lane revealing her director's left field audition technique, while Depass explains she'd originally had an eye towards the role of Julia until Heffernan pointed her in another direction. Although one wishes this featurette had been a lot longer, it does provide valuable insight with regard to just what has been accomplished with virtually no budget, and John Day's original score will garner even more acclaim after we hear just how it had to be composed and pieced together.
Expiration: a quietly large achievement, and one that deserves your attention.
During his Senior year at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Gavin Heffernan wrote a letter that would change his life. With a chance jobshadowing assignment on the 1999 Detroit Rock City, his dream of making movies became lucid.
After witnessing the intensity of moviemaking firsthand, Heffernan directed The Steaks, budgeted at $800. Shot over 10 months, Heffernan wrote, directed and acted in the film while attending his freshman year at McGill University. The film's sold out charity premiere raised more than $1500 for the Michael J Fox Parkinson's Foundation.
Inspired by his experience working as documentarian on Adam Rifkin's Night at the Golden Eagle, Gavin Heffernan began writing Expiration, his 7th screenplay in April 2001. Twenty-six months later, having just completed his BA at McGill, Heffernan reaping the harvest of a film that has become his life. In addition to his documentary work on Night at the Golden Eagle, Heffernan has also worked as a
videographer for the upcoming "21st Century Doors" documentary.