TORONTO SUN - 'Off World' Moves at a Slow Pace

March 16 2012

In Off World, a Toronto man named Lucky returns to his birthplace in the Philippines to search for his roots in a notorious slum.

Lucky (Marc Abaya) has grown up in Toronto, having been adopted into a middle-class home and raised far away from his birthplace. He knows he was born in Smokey Mountain, a community that's essentially built on a garbage dump, and he's come back to see if any of it is familiar. A helper in the Philippines informs Lucky that she has located a long-lost brother; that brother proves to be gay and rather more interesting than our Lucky, who spends a lot of time clutching his head and gazing into the middle distance.

"Why did my mother keep him and give me away?" He worries.

Lucky spends enough time in Smokey Mountain to start to feel at home. There are street parties and cock fights and child labour to look at, but never for long enough. The movie keeps going back to poor, glum Lucky, who never quite tells us what we want to know about the fascinating place called Smokey Mountain. Never mind.

Off World is often visually mesmerizing, a fictional piece that plays like a documentary. The film is too slow and too self-referential to be very satisfying; pity there couldn't have been more footage of Smokey Mountain and more information about its inhabitants. The movie is at TIFF Bell Lightbox.