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The Bay Boy

Year: 1984
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 100 min
Director: Daniel Petrie
Producer: John Kemeny, Denis Héroux
Writer: Daniel Petrie
Cinematographer: Claude Agostini
Editor: Susan Shanks
Sound: Patrick Rousseau
Music: Claude Bolling
Cast: Marcel Carrière, Peter Donat, Jane McKinnon, Leah Pinsent, Alan Scarfe, Peter Spence, Kiefer Sutherland, Liv Ullmann, Chris Wiggins
Production Company: Bay Boy Productions Ltd., Hachette-Fox Productions

Adapted from Daniel Petrie’s own screenplay, The Bay Boy follows – in the Canadian tradition of such coming-of-age chronicles as Mon oncle Antoine and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz – the passage through adolescence of Donald Campbell (Sutherland), a Cape Breton teenager whose family has been hit hard by the Great Depression. But Donald’s sources of hardship are as much spiritual and physical as they are economical. Donald’s brother Joe (Peter Spence), once the smartest boy in town, is now clearly brain-damaged. His mother still mourns the death of another child ten years earlier, and a rather unsettling vacation with a member from the church also occupies a fair share of his attention.

Expected by his mother (Ullmann) and the nuns at his school to enter the priesthood, Donald is driven more by his lust for the Coldwell sisters (Leah Pinsent and Jane McKinnon) than his apparent calling. Already torn by his conflicting obligations and desires, Donald erupts into panic when he witnesses the murder of an elderly Jewish couple at the hands of the Coldwell sisters’ sinister father, a local police officer (Alan Scarfe). The dilemma Donald faces – whether to reveal what he has witnessed – becomes a rite of passage into adulthood that is both more shattering and significant than he had dreamed possible.

Acclaimed Hollywood film and television director Petrie (Fort Apache, the Bronx) returned home to Glace Bay, Cape Breton to shoot this loosely autobiographical saga of growing up in Canada in the thirties. Kiefer Sutherland, himself a descendant of a Nova Scotian family, was just seventeen years old when he delivered a quietly confident performance in this film, which launched his career.

A sweet, heartfelt and highly personal film, The Bay Boy was well received upon its release and went on to win a number of Genie awards, including Best Picture (John Kemeny, Denis Héroux) and Best Screenplay (Daniel Petrie).