Monday, June 28, 2010

Meaty Year Bliss for Carnivore Lovers

Year of the Carnivore

I remember watching a documentary about Canadian cinema were one participant commented about the perception that Canadian’s only make films that are either artsy or about sex. While not an artsy film, I highly doubt Sook-Yin Lee’s Year of the Carnivore will be changing people’s views about sex in Canadian cinema any time soon.

Sammy Smalls (Cristin Milioti) works as an undercover security guard at a local grocery store. When she is not catching shoplifters in the act for her boss (Will Sasso), she is pining over the neighbourhood busker, Eugene (Mark Rendall). After sharing a passionate night together, Sammy is shocked to learn that Eugene no longer wants a relationship with her. What is the reason for Eugene’s sudden change? According to Eugene it is due to Sammy’s lack of skill in bed. Since Eugene refuses to help her improve her sexual technique, Sammy sets out to gain sexual experience by any means necessary.

Year of the Carnivore is a funny and thought provoking look at human connection and the loneliness that we all have. According Lee, married couples are not excluded from this sense of alienation. In fact, the married couples in the film are worse off than Sammy in most cases. Whether it is the young couple with twin babies, or the couple who have been together for 25 years, married folks have lost both the passion in the bedroom and the basic art of communication altogether.

Although sex is the catalyst for the story, it is rarely shown in a pleasurable light. In on scene Eugene has a bored look on his face while taking part in a threesome. Throughout the film Sook-Yin reminds us that, on a daily basis, we over analyze sex which in turn takes the fun out of it. As a society, we spends so much time talking about sex, selling sex, and looking to have sex; yet in reality people rarely act on their impulses. It is our inhibitions, and overall our lack of true connections, that leads to nothing but regret years later.

After starring in the controversial film Shortbus, and directing a few shorts, Sook-Yin Lee makes her feature length directorial debut with Year of the Carnivore. As a director Sook-Yin shows a lot of promise. Sure the themes of the movie may not be new but Lee makes them fresh again with her smartly written script. The dialogue in the film is both comical and charming. Sook-Yin also displays a good understanding on how to get the most from her actors. Besides Lee, a lot of the film’s success is due to the hilarious performance by Cristin Milioti in the role of Sammy. Milioti, who has great physical comedic timing, convincingly conveys both Sammy’s quirky awkwardness and her womanly awakening. Her performance always manages to avoid the realm of farce. Year of the Carnivore could have easily been a formulaic romantic comedy but instead it turned out to be one of those pleasant surprises.


  1. I always liked Lee as the host of DNTO on the CBC radio. Thanks for reviewing this movie. I didn't even know it was directed by her.

  2. @Edgar - It is worth seeing though I am not sure how long it will be in theatres. YOTC will probably hit DVD in the coming months.


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