2016 Canadian Film Festival: “The Sabbatical” Review


The Sabbatical produced and directed by Brian Stockton is a charming lighthearted comedy. It stars comedic actor James Whittingham who plays James, a faculty of arts professor who is going on sabbatical. It was a joy to watch Whittingham’s comedic performance of the grumpy, frustrated, overweight, overly sensitive arts professor with an irritating habit of taking other people’s photographs without their permission. His disgusting eating and hygiene habits are endearing and funny too.

You’d think James would be doing the happy dance to have a year off with pay but things aren’t what they seem and he seems to have an ax to grind. He’s been cautioned by Dean Vernon (wonderfully played by Ken Wilson) that if he doesn’t return with a successful book to add to his previous opus magnum that his job is on the line. To boot, his publishing agent Barry isn’t too keen on his book proposal, and his busy no-nonsense collegiate wife Jillian (Bernadette Mullen) wants him to have a vasectomy.

When grabbing a coffee at the coffee kiosk on the university campus, he puts two and two together and confronts Kate, a former student who has given him a negative teacher evaluation. He jumps at the occasion to slam her. His efforts to let her know that he knows and to undermine her are silly and hilarious.

When out on his photographic forays during his sabbatical, he meets Lucy (Laura Abramsen) an arts student at an art gallery who suffers from Stendhal syndrome. He takes her picture and engages her in conversation only to antagonize her when he criticizes her choice of artwork that she finds moving.

At his urologist’s office to arrange a vasectomy, feeling bored, he spins his chair around only to lose his balance and tumble out of his chair. When confronted by his urologist (Kevin Allardyce) who helps him to get up as to what had just happened, he admits that he got dizzy and lost his balance while spinning the chair. James can’t believe it when he ends up losing his driver’s license.

He meets Lucy again in a city park, and they end up becoming friends. And he hires her to be his driver. He becomes a part of her free spirited world and he revels in the friendship. They have some wonderful hilarious times together. She introduces him to acid, her friends and he even lets her pierce one of his ears. His wife Jillian looks on benignly and is not at the least jealous. She even jokingly while playing with a banana gives James her blessing to fool around. But the friendship with Lucy comes to an abrupt end when one of James’ particular demonstrations of possessiveness drives a wedge between them. He discovers her posing nude for Malcom Anders (Paul-Gui Grepeau), a blind photographer, whom he visits one morning and flips out.

I really loved the sound track to the film and felt that it set the tone. Kudos to Brian Stockton and cinematographers Preston Kanak and Jason Rister for creating a visually appealing film. It was fun to watch James’ psychedelic high at Lucy’s party especially when he fondles a portrait of the Queen. The fireworks scene in the park was beautifully shot. I really enjoyed watching Lucy, Shane (Mike Gill), Penelope (Candy Fox) and James shoot fireworks at each other, and finally, seeing James’ reaction to his urologist performing his vasectomy using a local anesthetic without a mask and surgical gloves, hilarious. I thought the city of Regina and the University of Regina were beautifully shot and gave the film depth and character. Kudos also to Ian Schneider, Brian Stockton and Matt Yim who came up with the story and again to Brian Stockton and James Whittingham for an original screenplay.

I loved watching this film and didn’t want it to end but alas all good things come to an end. I highly recommend this film for it is surprisingly good, will make you laugh and will leave you feeling positively high about what makes life worth living.

Watch the trailer for The Sabbatical below!

The Sabbatical will be playing at The Royal Theatre April 1 at 7:00 p.m. 

Tickets can be purchased here!



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