Movie Review: “An Insignificant Harvey”

Written by Brent Holmes November 28, 2011

Hardly insignificant

An Insignificant Harvey is an independent Canadian film that premiered at the Buscan International Film Festival in South Korea and has since gone on tour across Canada.

Jordan Prentice, who some may recognize as the drug-addicted dwarf actor from In Bruges, plays the title role. Much like his previous work, Prentice is very good at providing a compelling performance that keeps the audience’s attention. The introduction of Inca, a husky who starts following Harvey around, provides a good amount of material for Prentice to create a compelling character. However, Kristin Adams and Steve McCarthy as his friends Dakota and Lucas don’t get as much depth out of their characters.

The film’s plot follows the trio as Dakota and Harvey’s developing romance with Lucas functioning as both a hinderance and a catalyst for the relationship. Unfortunately, neither of these two characters feel as well developed as Harvey. We don’t know why they have found this sort of camaraderie outside of the fact that the narrative demands it.

Harvey is a fascinating character. Writer/Director Jeff Kopas does a good job of not turning him into an empty ‘message’ character who has achondroplasia. There isn’t a binary of he is reclusive because he is short. Kopas avoids the trappings that writers like Dustin Lance Black get themselves into, however, he does have some challenges to overcome thematically.

The film is Canadian, but its actual setting is ambiguous. It’s very easy to say the film was shot in Canada, but one could argue that it takes place in either Canada or the United States. This provides a good contrast with some of the shots where the snow seems to recede or be very present making it a good reflection of the Canadian identity struggling against outside influences. This struggle is very well expanded on through Harvey’s character who is essentially a manifestation of Gord Downie’s “Hard Canadian”.

An Insignificant Harvey is Jeff Kopas directorial debut. Kopas has clear talent as a director/writer. He does not sacrificing a comprehendible narrative to try and make bigger artistic statements, however some of the themes of the film are not fully developed. Harvey and Lucas have some prior connection to the town’s Catholic church, but while neither of them feel particularly warm towards the institution why they have this struggle with the Church is not fully explained and it doesn’t build their characters.

Similarly, Harvey’s interest in filming the world around him is not fully explored. Harvey is established as a filmmaker early in the film but after that element of his character is used to drive the narrative in a specific direction, it is quickly dropped. If there is a flaw in Harvey’s character, it is that while his heart is a very easily identifiable core, his history and interests are used primarily to drive the narrative rather than develop the character.

The sound was noticeably loud with ambient noise effects like a door closing sounding like the boom mic was right next to it. (That issue was more likely a problem of the theater’s sound system than a fault of the sound recording, that’s not really knowable unless the film was screened in a different theater.)

Despite some missteps, An Insignificant Harvey is a strong Canadian film that provides seamless transitions between its comedy, tragedy, and struggles. It will be interesting to see how Kopas develops a directorial style from here.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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About Brent Holmes

Brent Holmes is a Film Studies and English Major attending Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario where he is working towards a PhD in Film Studies. He currently writes for We Eat Films and The Western Gazette (on the latter, he serves as Arts & Life editor).

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