It is easy to say that when it comes to this beautiful country of Canada that a lot of us are lucky to live in, quite a few Canadian film productions try to capitalize this by capturing our gorgeous landscapes in their movies. A type of film in which these shots work so well is what I’m calling the “Canadian Odyssey” films; following a central character or group of characters across our provinces, capturing the awesome nature and, well, the magic of our home. We saw Joshua Jackson play a terminally ill teacher riding from the east coast to the west in One Week or Joe Dick, Billy Talent and the rest of their punk band touring the west one final time in Hard Core Logo. It may be just local to our nation but these films are iconic to cinephiles in our celebration of the majesty of our lands.
The Rainbow Kid takes this element and applies it to a story that is both a coming of age and a sometimes tragic story of innocence lost. First-time feature director, Kire Paputts, takes on a very unconventional road trip story with assistance from a couple of Canadian legendary filmmaker Bruce McDonald’s screenwriters, and creates a film that is unforgettable due to its lead performance and takes you in a direction you never thought it would go. Paputts pushes boundaries while shaking his main character to his very foundation and we feel every second, for better or worse.
The Rainbow Kid centers on Eugene, a nineteen-year-old Toronto kid with Down syndrome who lives with his mother in a run-down apartment, with the landlord constantly on their case for rent. Eugene’s mom is in precarious health and Eugene vows to save her by one day finding the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. After the inevitable tragedy comes to pass, Eugene packs his back the best way he knows how and hops on his bike to realize his journey, something that will change him irreparably and hopefully prepare him for the future.
Gliding on the training wheels of his bike, Eugene starts to make his way across rural Ontario, occasionally stopping to snack on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he made before leaving and a quick nap, striving to obtain his goal. The first person he comes across is a seemingly nomadic man named Bill, who searches for treasure using a divining rod of sorts. In an almost existential training, Bill makes another such rod for Eugene who begins to use it as almost a guide to his destiny. Where it points is where Eugene goes, which affects who he meets and what dangers and bad situations he will face.
The heart and soul of The Rainbow Kid belongs to lead actor, Dylan Harman, who gives an incredible performance that feels absolutely genuine in a way that gives you the feeling of a calm veteran. Through the twists and turns that Eugene’s journey takes him in, Harman handles all of it with a collected grace that will serve him very well in his acting future. This may attribute to a close relationship between the lead and the filmmaker as, for a large part, Eugene’s trip is a solo one. To be honest, the behind the scenes of this film is a very intriguing thing for me.
The dark turns of this film and the increasing volatileness of Eugene’s situations is where The Rainbow Kid may lose some of its audience. None of these sequences felt false or outlandish to me, but the timeline and probability of it might prove to be too much for viewers not already engaged by the story Paputts is trying to tell. The one thing that is constant is that Eugene is the hero of his own story and, at one point, even goes out of his way to act as such but the reality of his situation always brings down the boot of truth and we always know that he is just treading water until the next hand grabs his ankle, threatening to pull him under. I would still like to believe that through Harman and Paputts development of Eugene’s character, even if you don’t agree with the story’s direction, you will still be emotionally invested in where his mind is at.
Still facing the unfortunate box office stigma of Canadian film, The Rainbow Kid faces an underdog journey just like Eugene does in the movie. It makes its journey across Canada in the hopes to find a pot of gold and will come across people that accept the film for exactly what it is and those who just want more from it. With uplifting moments, pure sorrow at times, and sequences that will make you cringe, The Rainbow Kid was a film that struck a chord with me and had resonance I really appreciated. I give this one a four out of five.