Return to tiff.’s home page

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Shopping Cart
Goin' Down the Road

Goin' Down the Road

(La route de l'ouest)

Year: 1970
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 87 min
Director: Donald Shebib
Producer: Donald Shebib
Writer: Donald Shebib, William Fruet
Cinematographer: Richard Leiterman
Editor: Donald Shebib
Sound: James McCarthy
Music: Bruce Cockburn
Cast: Doug McGrath, Ron Martin, Don Steinhouse, Ted Sugar, Pierre La Roche, Nicole Morin, Cayle Chernin, Jayne Eastwood, Paul Bradley
Production Company: Evdon Films Ltd.

Pete (Doug McGrath) and his pal Joey (Paul Bradley) are two wistful roustabouts from the Maritimes who head to Toronto in a battered old Chevy looking for a better life. After they are turned away by Pete’s wary relatives, they spend the first night in a shelter and then rent a cheap apartment. The ambitious Pete tries to land a job in advertising, but discovers that without education or skills he must join Joey in a tedious job at a bottling depot. They relieve their boredom by leering at Nicole (Nicole Morin), the warehouse’s sexy Québécoise secretary, and by going out on the town with the boys from work to drown their troubles in beer.

Joey picks up a waitress named Betty (Jayne Eastwood) and gets her pregnant. They get married, move into an apartment and buy every­thing on credit. When Pete and Joey get laid off, all three of them are forced to move into a seedy hotel. Pete gets the occasional job but Joey lethargically stays home all day, watching television and drinking beer. When Betty suddenly finds herself without work, Joey and Pete try to steal groceries from a supermarket, but only succeed in beating up the clerk who tries to stop them. The next morning, they dis­cover their belongings have been thrown out of their rooms. Joey wants to find Betty but Pete persuades him to flee the police and move on down the road once more.

This first feature by Don Shebib – produced in 16mm on a modest budget of $87,000 – has become an icon of English-Canadian cinema. Its intelligent blend of fiction and documentary realism provide an illuminating insight into the lives of people living on the margins of society. The film was warmly welcomed by critics and audiences at the time of its release and won Canadian Film Awards for best feature and best screenplay. Its theme, style and character types are constantly used as points of ref­erence in discussions about the character­istics of Canadian cinema. There are also interesting comparisons with Michel Brault’s Entre la mer et l’eau douce (1967), made only a few years earlier in Quebec.

Goin’ Down the Road was re-released in the fall of 1998 by the Toronto International Film Festival Group®’s Film Circuit and was recognized as a “culturally significant film” through its inclusion in the AV Preservation Trust’s Masterworks programme in 2000.