Written by Aaron Bala   
Friday, 24 February 2012 03:01

donovans echo postFilm Review

Title: Donovan’s Echo

Director: Jim Cliffe

Stars: Danny Glover, Bruce Greenwood, Natasha Calis, Sonja Bennett

Company: Union Pictures

Release Date: February 24th, 2012

Rating: PG

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Reviewed By Adam A. Donaldson

Prophets and premonitions provide a rich narrative for stories. After all, seeing the future, and the personal and universal long-term implications of that, provide excellent narrative fodder. In the new film, Donovan’s Echo, our titular protagonist is haunted by more than his visions – brief flashes really – of the future; he’s being chased as much by the ghosts of his past as he is the hints of things to come. A human story about regret, told with both pathos and humour, Donovan’s Echo may be about the future, but you might not see the end coming.

The story follows Donovan Matheson (Danny Glover) as her returns to the small British Columbian town where his wife and child died in an unfortunate car accident 30 years earlier. Once a promising scientist that graduated from the Manhattan Project to nearly making a breakthrough with cold fusion before his work was discredited, Donovan is now a broken man, trying to hold down a McJob at the local supermarket. While walking home drunk one night, Donovan sees flashes of a car accident before it happens, and going over old notes in storage at his house, Donovan discovers that this may not be the first time he’s had a sense of something happening before it happened.

In context, Donovan’s Echo plays like an episode of the old Twilight Zone. A single man, ordinary though cursed by tragedy, touched by an extraordinary force that may be real, but has just as much an equal chance of being all in his head. While watching the film, co-writer/director Jim Cliffe does a good job of suspending your suspension of disbelief, making you (and Donovan) believe that his futuristic transmissions are all a delusion. Donovan rescues the little girl from next door from a falling power tool, but did he really see it hitting her a split second before it happened, or did he jostle the scaffolding and actually start the chain-of-events in the first place?

The one playing devil’s advocate is Bruce Greenwood as Donovan’s friend Finnley, a local RCMP officer who’s married to the sister of Donovan’s deceased wife. Although Finnley is initially patient with Donovan’s eccentricities he eventually has to hammer down as, from his point of view, Donovan’s behaviour is getting out of control. There’s a nice camaraderie between Greenwood and Glover, but it’s very easy to get the sense of Finnley’s frustration. The characters on paper are kind of straightforward, so this is one of those times where the presence of the actors adds the needed dimensions, so the casting of Glover and Greenwood is fortuitous and welcome.

At the same time, Donovan’s Echo is a film that itself requires patience. This is not an ADD pinball machine full of distractions, but very purposefully driven. Its pacing can be frustrating, but at the same time its deliberate. The more the film moves along, the more speed it picks up. Those deliberate tones in the first half of the film yield dividends in the second as all the fractured pieces come together. I have to say that I didn’t foresee how the whole story would end up, which is a rare sort of treat when you see a lot of movies. The film’s crescendo is simple, but affective, and once the film is over there’s a palpable bittersweetness that ties everything off. In the end, there are no good guys and no bad guys, just the hope that our lives have made a difference in the end.

Credit goes to Cliffe for setting a tone and sticking to it, and to Glover for caring the movie with a surefooted performance that’s subtle and complex. Not everyone will be able to get a handle on the film, and by far its biggest demerit is that there are times the story seems as aloof and unfocused as its protagonist, but in the end you see that the filmmakers seemed to know what they were doing all along. What we have here is a good mind puzzle with a moralistic centre, one that would have made Rod Serling nod with approval.