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Expiration   B+

Sunchaser Pictures

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Gavin Heffernan
Writer: Gavin Heffernan
Cast: Janet Lane, Gavin Heffernan, Erin Simkin, Yetide Badaki, Denise Depass, Paul Rogic, Laen Hershler, Margaret Garrard.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

In Expiration, the feature debut of 23-year-old filmmaker Gavin Heffernan, the after-hours adventures of several young people on one fall Montreal night lead to life-changing realizations for most involved. The superb ensemble cast is led by writer-director Heffernan as Sam, an affable guy who decides to propose to longtime friend Niki (Erin Simkin) shortly after she tells him that she's pregnant with his child. But during a convenience store holdup, the engagement ring he'd planned on giving her is stolen; the thief also snatches a bag full of narcotics from drug-courier Rachel (Janet Lane), whose life could be in jeopardy if she doesn't make a delivery in just a few hours. While Sam and Rachel attempt to track down the thief and get their stuff back, Niki has her own late-night adventures involving a prostitute (Denise Depass) and her troubled daughter (Yetide Badaki).

While a lesser film might have played up the potential violence that could arise from a setup involving drugs, hookers, and shady characters that may pose a serious threat to our heroes, Expiration has other things on its mind, favoring character development and thematic exploration over superficial action. It's smart, funny, and engaging, with a touching sense of humanity. When the last-act introduction of a hopped-up junkie (played by the wonderful Paul Rogic) looks like it's going to take us down one road, the film takes us down another, leading to a climax that's sad, joyful, and inspiring all at once. The textured, painterly digital video cinematography is downright gorgeous at times; coupled with the haunting, ethereal score by Jon Day and the rhythmic editing, Expiration often achieves a beautiful sense of poetry. Heffernan is a natural-born filmmaker.

There are some off-moments and some of the story resolutions are a bit too neat and tidy, but that's quibbling. The film radiates with a quiet fascination about how the fleeting connections between people can have such a profound impact. Or perhaps it's really about memory, and the way echoes from our past can cause ripples far into the future. Whatever it's about, Expiration is a richly evocative experience, even if it doesn't quite reach the level of greatness it clearly aspires to. That's okay, though: I bet we'll see more from Heffernan and the other talented people involved in this production in the future. And we'll be amazed.

Note: Expiration had its U.S. premiere on September 25, 2003 in Los Angeles as part of the New York Independent Film and Video Festival. No official release date has been set, as it's possible that the film may be picked up by a distributor while making the festival rounds. Visit sunchaserpictures.com for the latest news.

Review published 09.30.2003.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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