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My American Cousin

My American Cousin

Year: 1985
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 95 min
Director: Sandy Wilson
Producer: Peter O'Brian
Writer: Sandy Wilson
Cinematographer: Richard Leiterman
Editor: Haida Paul
Sound: Garrell Clark
Cast: John Wildman, Camille Henderson, Jane Mortifee, Richard Donat, Margaret Langrick, T Scott
Production Company: Okanagan Motion Picture Company Inc. (Vancouver), Peter O'Brian Independent Pictures Inc. (Toronto), Borderline Productions Inc. (Vancouver)

The story of My American Cousin is closely related to writer-director Sandy Wilson’s own childhood on Paradise Ranch, an idyllic stretch of rolling orchards and grazing lands on the shores of British Columbia’s Lake Okanagan, which is where much of the film was shot.

The film is set in the summer of 1959 when rock 'n' roll was blasting from every jukebox, girls wore bobby socks and ponytails and guys had elaborate Brylcreem hairdos. The film opens with 12-year-old Sandy (Langrick) scratching “Nothing ever happens” repeatedly in her diary. She desperately longs to be 16. One hot summer night, Sandy's life changes forever. Driving a lipstick-red Cadillac convertible, her cousin Butch arrives from California, wearing a white
T-shirt with a pack of Camels tucked in the sleeve. Butch’s arrival not only unsettles and disrupts the quiet life of the valley, it leaves a lasting impression on Sandy who experiences the most unforgettable summer of her life. Attracted and fascinated by her fearless cousin, Sandy is hopelessly stranded between her parent’s strict and conservative expectations and the seduction of the rock 'n' roll culture that Butch personifies.

Relying on personal memory and instinct, Wilson has crafted a film in which nothing much happens, yet that is part of its authenticity. Charming, funny and light as a feather, this film has a fine taste for ironic stereotyping, as it conjures up a lost age of Canadian innocence. Corroborating Joyce Wieland’s thesis of the Canadian-American female-male equation, but with a freshly populist approach, My American Cousin deserves its place in Canadian film history as one of the most successful films ever.