February 18, 2019

SCREEN | A Summer Crush for 'Bernadette' x JFL NorthWest

Sam Straley James Psathas Sarah Jane Murray Sarah Shirkey Johnny Lim James Guyton John Psathas | Bernadette | 2019 JFL Northwest Film Festival

First-time feature filmmaker John Psathas' mid-'90s, coming-of-age comedy takes the usual cues of the well-worn teen movie genre to express a simple story of a summer crush. Bernadette seems initially built on an unrequited infatuation and heartache but almost abandons that idea to take on a more full-blown workplace comedy feel mixed with sports tropes for good measure.

Sam Straley stars as Archie who falls in love with the titular French foreign exchange student and lifeguard played by Marilyn Bass. Alongside best friends and bandmates Ken (Johnny Lim) and Martin (James Guyton) to egg him on, Archie deals with his many rivals including his new cool guy boss turned mentor Dixon (James Psathas) who's ostensibly sleeping with his young mom, Janine (Sarah Shirkey).

Psathas' low-key, dreamy visuals fit the film's mood and tone but the overuse of voiceover narration really hurts the comradery feel of its friendship based storytelling. The straight-laced script mixes sports fare in the form of extended basketball montages, your average white bread bullies, and party sequences to build the characters' sense of place ably.

Bernadette's summer vibes and an appealing cast make for a pleasant enough hangout. Psathas' reverence for the familiar material shows with his keen execution despite an over-reliance on a few too many filmmaking tricks to move the typical teen movie plot forward. It acts more like a loose diary of idealized memories than your typical coming-of-age fare.

Bernadette screened at the 2019 Vancouver Just for Laughs Film Festival at Vancity Theatre for JFL NorthWest with Psathas and Shirkey in attendance.

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