It’s not much of an understatement to say Shelley Thompson’s directorial feature debut is taking the nation by storm.
An official selection at the Inside Out Festival and the hotly anticipated Friday gala for FIN, Dawn, Her Dad & The Tractor is a fully realized, absolutely stunning achievement.
Thompson – best known for her roles in David Bowie flick Labyrinth or her long-running turn as Barb Lahey on Trailer Park Boys – takes the reins here, and manages to write and direct a movie I won’t soon forget.
It follows young Dawn – formerly son Donald – who returns home after a long absence to mourn her mother’s death. She stuns her estranged father and sister, as well as much of her small town, but Dawn is simply living her authentic truth.
The best thing about the film, truly, is that it avoids every trapping of the LGBTQ2S+ film genre, never resorting to cheap emotions, cliche situations or stilted dialogue to get the point across. There’s an honesty in the portrayals in the film.
Thompson tells a unique, sensitive story here with a steady hand, and much of the credit should also go to the incredible cast who brings the script to life.
Starring as Dawn is the fantastic, charismatic Maya V. Henry, who is in for one hell of a career after this performance. Joining her is Robb Wells, who leaps away from his foul-mouthed Trailer Park Boys persona to play a doting, struggling father who just wants the best for his children.
Meanwhile. Amy Groening and Reid Price are both fantastic as well, and Taylor Olson – mine and everyone else’s favourite Halifax nice-guy – gets to play against type in a pretty darn despicable role.
The emotions are real, and nothing is overdramatized or too theatrical. The strength is just how grounded this movie is, and it benefits greatly because of that.
This is one of my favourite movies of 2021, and if this is a sign of things to come from Thompson, I’ll be among the first who’ll purchase tickets to her next directorial effort.