The Anniversary

A Toronto couple, Teresa (Deborah Hay) and Sam (Ben Carlson) reaching middle age with nothing but disappointment to show for their 20 year relationship, come to a breaking point on their 20th wedding anniversary when Sam decides to take a jog and never returns.

The Anniversary is an absorbing chamber piece that takes place during one night in a downtown Toronto home where Teresa has invited a few of her family and friends for a dinner party while undergoing a personal crisis due to her husband having walked out on her exactly one year ago.

Toronto based Canadian actress/writer and director Valerie Buhagiar known for such films as Adriatico My Love (2011) Expecting (2002), Highway 61 (1991) and Road Kill (1989), and having directed many short films, has just completed her first feature length film as director. The Anniversary was made on a meager budget in ten days during a cold Toronto December, and is a well-crafted quirky slice-of-life drama that has many off beat comic moments. 

Unable to move on from the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Teresa withdraws while suffering from loneliness and depression. But she continues to hold out hope that one day he will return, perhaps even tonight. “He just needed a break”

The theme of loss and hope is prevalent throughout as all the guests at the party seem to have lost something and are disappointed with who they have become. We wonder if Sam will return as we learn more details about the couple’s relationship through a varied group of characters who all have their own interpretation of the unexpected walk out, and deal with the crisis in their own way. 

The film explores underlying questions of relationships and marriages, and society’s expectations, but feels much lighter due to the ensemble cast’s often humorous and awkward interactions. The characters are well written, each having a life of their own and feels at times like an intervention support group with people of varying ages and backgrounds.

There is a middle aged business man Carl (Colin Mochrie), who has hopes of stepping in as Teresa’s boyfriend, next is Teresa’s gruff mother who wants to knock some sense into her daughter, a lonely middle aged singer who had an affair with Teresa’s husband, there’s Teresa’s son Nicky who has withdrawn into his world of rap music and art, a university art student who had worked with Sam, and a neighborhood security guard who is also looking to court Teresa.

The atmosphere is thick with a simmering crisis where everyone is in denial and there is no consensus on reality or truth. Everyone seems to be in a state of limbo, waiting for something to be resolved or a moment of clarity so they can move on with their lives. 

The performances of the ensemble cast generally feel spontaneous and improvised making for some amusing moments and writer-director Buhagiar skillfully imbues the film with a gentle charm using music by local artists like Manteca, Michele McAdorey, Mary Margaret O’hara, and Lyne Tremblay helping give the film an alluring and hopeful quality.


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