Because we live in a large city we sometimes forget that there are a large amount of people in this country who live in small towns and who do not have the opportunities that we have. We take for granted the accessibility we have to schooling, job opportunities and opportunities in general. Films like Carl Bessai's (Emile, Normal) "Cole" perform the important task of reminding us that our way of life is not the only way of life in this huge country.
Lytton, British Columbia is a small town 3 hours outside of Vancouver with a population of 350 people. Cole Chambers (Richard de Klerk – appeared in episodes of Supernatural and Cold Squad) and his sister Maybelline (Sonja Bennett – Catch and Release, The Fog) run the only gas station in town. Maybelline has two kids, one black and one with her present boyfriend, Bobby (Chad Willett – appeared in episodes of The X Files and Charmed).
Cole is an aspiring author who has decided to take a creative writing class at the university in Vancouver – a three hour drive away from Lytton. Maybelline is disapproving of this as it takes him away from the gas station too much. But Cole is determined.
The reasons that he is still at home are all of the family variety. Cole is there to protect his 6-year-old nephew and his sister from the abusive Bobby. He and Maybelline also have to take care of their brain-damaged mother (Rebecca Jenkins).
Cole is a good writer, a fact that his classmates and professor recognize very quickly. At the class Cole is immediately attracted a female classmate, Serafina (Kandyse McClure – from television's Battlestar Galactica). Despite the fact that he is a small town boy and she is a rich city girl they bond. Also she is black and he is white.
The fact that Cole is away from Lytton for the class and to see Serafina seems to have a negative effect on the entire town. Things get out of control. Cole has to make a choice between his family and his loves – for writing and Serafina.
The town is small and in many respects the story is small, but it most certainly isn't insignificant. We can all relate, no matter our situation in life, to the feelings of being trapped that Cole goes through. Cole is a coming out of a poor background with seemingly everything against him and is still trying to do right.
Director Bessai has a good eye for detail. The day-to-day particulars of a small town are not beyond his grasp and understanding. He does not pander or talk down to this section of the population. Though everything is not wine and roses with the film. The choice of relegating the issue of domestic abuse to a secondary status in the film is one I don't agree with. As the tension mounts and Cole continues to do nothing you find yourself becoming more and more disturbed by his inactivity. It is also strange that when Cole finally does something it is to come to the defense of his nephew and not his own sister. As we have been shown that Cole is a 'good' man this is kinda strange behaviour.
This is a familiar story about poverty and a person feeling trapped in their lives, but told in a refreshing way. There is nothing complex about the film, but it's honesty and rawness take it to a notch above your average indie-flick.