Review by David Baldwin
As Defining Moments opens, it defines itself as “a point in your life when you’re urged to make a pivotal decision, or when you experience something that fundamentally changes you.” It is not particularly deep, but it sets the stage for what is to come in Writer/Director Stephen Wallis’ tale of love and sadness amongst a group of interconnected individuals experiencing those profound Defining Moments in their own lives.
It feels very much like Love Actually in that regard, and many other films of its ilk where characters pop in and out of each other’s stories. Here their tales are sectioned off into thematic chapters that feel episodic in nature, yet still feel connected by those opening words. And while the editing is a bit too choppy, the dialogue clunky and some of the ADR a bit rough around the edges, Defining Moments has its heart in the right place for all 88-minutes of its humourous and emotional running time. Eric Peterson (who many Canadians will remember as Oscar from Corner Gas) is great as a doctor in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and Tammy Blanchard is equally as good as his 40-something daughter trying to navigate a divorce and a surprise pregnancy. It was lovely getting to see Oscar-winner Graham Greene pop up in a critical role as well.
Though the supporting cast is game for whatever Wallis’ story throws at them, the film belongs by far to the legendary Burt Reynolds, who died in 2018 – making this is last on-screen appearance. His narration that bookends the film feels like it is coming beyond the grave, but gives the film its emotional resonance. He has one of the smaller parts, but his gravitas and presence makes it feel so much more important. I watched and hung on every word and moment he appeared in, sensing the regret in his distinctive vocal inflections, not knowing this is the last performance he would leave for us. Making things worse, his character Chester believes that his time on Earth is coming to a close and he is keen on finishing it off playing checkers and hanging out with his daughter, which makes his presence in the film feel all the more tragic. It is a lovely and bittersweet finale to the actor, and I wish he was able to have an even bigger effect on Defining Moments (which was likely completed after his passing). What a tremendous loss.
Defining Moments is available on VOD and Digital now.