Goin' Down the Road
|Goin' Down the Road|
Promotional movie poster for the film
|Directed by||Donald Shebib|
|Produced by||Donald Shebib|
|Written by||William Fruet
|Music by||Bruce Cockburn|
|Editing by||Donald Shebib|
|Distributed by||Chevron Pictures|
|Release dates||July 2, 1970 (Canada)
October 19 (U.S.)
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Budget||CAD 87,000 (estimate) or USD 78,000|
Goin' Down the Road is a 1970 Canadian film directed by Donald Shebib and released in 1970. It chronicles the lives of two men from the Maritimes who move to Toronto in order to find a better life. It starred Doug McGrath, Paul Bradley, Jayne Eastwood and Cayle Chernin. Despite a lack of production expense, it is generally regarded as one of the best and most influential Canadian films of all time and has received considerable critical acclaim for its true-to-life performances.
Peter and Joey drive their 1960 Chevrolet Impala from their home on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia to Toronto with the hope of meeting up with their relatives in the city who can find them jobs. But their relatives hide from what they see as the pair's uncouth behaviour, and the two are set adrift in the city. The men find minimum wage jobs at $2 an hour for a 40-hour week, still much better pay than anything they could have found back home.
They soon turn their good fortune into residency in a small apartment. Both men start romances, and Joey decides to get married when he gets his girlfriend (Eastwood) pregnant. He pursues a lifestyle undreamt of at home with his new wife, but the larger apartment and payments on his new stereo and television start to strain his finances. He becomes desperate as his child's birth approaches and the expenses start to mount.
Disaster strikes when Peter and Joey get laid off at the end of the summer. Unable to find steady work and having bills to pay and a baby on the way, they come up with a harebrained scheme to rob groceries from a Loblaws supermarket, a plan that inevitably results in disaster.
- Doug McGrath as Peter McGraw
- Paul Bradley as Joey Mayle
- Jayne Eastwood as Betty
- Cayle-Lorraine Sinclair (Chernin) as Selina
- Nicole Morin as Nicole
- Pierre La Roche as Frenchie La Roche
- Don Steinhouse as Plant Co-worker
- Ted Sugar as Plant Co-worker
- Ron Martin as Plant Co-worker
The film reflected an important social phenomenon in post-war Canada as the economy of the eastern provinces stagnated and many young men sought opportunities in the fast growing economy of Ontario. Although the men in the film come from Nova Scotia, the "Newfie" as an unsophisticated manual labourer was a common stereotype starting in the early 1950s as many Atlantic Canadians moved to the cities looking for work, only to find widespread unemployment and jobs that may have seemed to have attractive salaries, but made living in large cities marginal at best. Many of Toronto's early housing developments (particularly Regent Park) were built to handle the influx of internal immigrants before they were eventually replaced by external immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia starting in the 1960s.
The film is well known to Canadians and was parodied in an episode of SCTV, with John Candy and Joe Flaherty as a Maritime lawyer and doctor (respectively) seeking a better life in Toronto after hearing about the job openings there. Eastwood reprised her role as the pregnant girlfriend, and Andrea Martin expanded the list of characters as a French-Canadian nuclear physicist who was also seeking better opportunities outside her native province of Quebec. As in the original, the men are entranced by the big city appeal of Yonge Street, a primary commercial thoroughfare in downtown Toronto. The parody ends on a happier note, with the characters leaving Toronto to seek better opportunities in Edmonton.
Production and significance
Many of the film's sequences were improvised on the spot. For example, the scene in Allan Gardens where Pete and Joey interact with some musical tramps: according to Donald Shebib, McGrath saw the men and called Shebib who hurried down with his camera and other cast members in tow. Shot on 16mm reversal stock, the near-documentary look of the movie impressed a number of critics who appreciated the film's honesty and its refusal to pander to the audience. Pete and Joey are not depicted as being punished for a moral failure, and there is no happy ending. The film builds on such works as The Grapes of Wrath but it puts the story into the present, and the story itself is not dated – the flight from rural to urban areas continues throughout the world today.
Quebec cinema also was influenced by the realistic look of Goin' Down the Road, and many successful Quebec films based on real life experiences were also critical and often commercial successes. Other Canadian filmmakers have also taken advantage of the cost savings that realism can mean to a production (such as shooting on less expensive film stock).
This film has been designated and preserved as a "masterwork" by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of Canada’s audio-visual heritage. The Toronto International Film Festival ranked it in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time three times, in 1984, 1993 and 2004. In 2002, readers of Playback voted it the 5th greatest Canadian film of all-time.
The up-and-coming singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn composed several songs for this film including "Goin' Down the Road" and "Another Victim of the Rainbow". Cockburn refused to release the songs commercially as they did not reflect his experience, but those of the characters in the film. Director Donald Shebib was introduced to Cockburn, who was then playing in coffee houses in Toronto, by journalist Alison Gordon.
- "AV Trust – Goin' Down the Road". Avtrust.ca. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
- "Film: 'casual virtuosity ... harsh actuality': Little 'happens' Undoing" By David Sterritt. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 10 Feb 1971: 4.
- "Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada". Avtrust.ca. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
- "Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time," The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2012, URL accessed 28 April 2013.
- Egoyan tops Canada's all-time best movies list
- "Donald Shebib Is Back On the Road Again". Torontoist, October 20, 2010.