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A Reason to Leave Your Apartment: Review of Motivational Growth

One of the fun things about Toronto After Dark is that often people from the films will attend the festival, especially the Toronto After Dark pub nights. I met director/writer Don Thacker on the first night and spoke with him a few times before and after seeing his film.

Motivational Growth was already on my "Selected Seven" movies of the festival. Based on its trailer, I tagged it "When your bathroom mold is smarter than you are" and that wasn't an inaccurate summary. It's also become a darling of the festival curcuit, which amazes Thacker.

The movie features Adrian DiGiovanni as Ian B. Foliver, an unemployed 30-something whose best friend is his television, which has been handed down from his grandfather, to his father, to him. If you've ever hidden away from the world after the loss of a schedule, Ian's apartment with its slovenly strewn pizza boxes and piles of unidentified "junk" on every flat surface (and  a few not so flat ones) will either fill you with dread or empathy. He is a character not so much stuck in a rut, but mired in both a physical and mental mess. For the first part of the film, Ian's existence has narrowed down to schlocky television shows, all of which are knock offs of 80s tv, including an exercise show, "Zygor: Alien Cop" and food delivery. He hasn't stepped outside of his apartment in months, or showered in days, and sees no reason to change.

Until his television dies and the mold in his bathroom starts to talk to him. The fact that "The Mold" is voiced by Re-Animator's Jeffrey Combs lends it more credence than you would expect. The creature itself was seamlessly animated by four puppeteers, and at first dispenses good advice like a mentor should. And then...

In the Q&A afterwards, the director enthusiastically addressed the audience. He discussed the film's chiptune soundtrack, which added pep to a not so peppy situation. Thacker's previous career included working in computers and the soundtrack was done by a friend of his. He talked about the surrealness of directing Jeff Combs and having to pinch himself. The other cast members included Pete Giovagnoli as Box the Ox, the menacing landlord who is looking for his rent. Thacker talked about the movie magic and use of forced perspective that turned the very short man into the big bad.

There are also some great lines. One of my favourites was "Panic is a weird state, not like Wyoming is a weird state but..." In fact, the movie won the Toronto After Dark Audience Choice awards for Best Line of Dialogue, even if they choose "The Mold knows Jack, the Mold knows." Its second award was for best creature (the Mold).

Overall, its as fun a film about depression as you are ever likely to find. I look forward to seeing what debute Director/Creator Thacker comes up with next.

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