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Unfinished Business

Year: 1984
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 91 min
Director: Don Owen
Producer: Don Owen, Annette Cohen
Writer: Don Owen
Cinematographer: Douglas Kiefer
Editor: Peter Dale, David Nicholson
Sound: Bryan Day
Music: Norman Orenstein, Patricia Cullen
Cast: Julie Biggs, Peter Kastner, Chuck Shamata, Jane Foster, Isabelle Mejias, Leslie Toth, Peter Spence
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

A sequel to Nobody Waved Good-bye, the exuberant Unfinished Business (co-produced by the National Film Board and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) focuses on Peter and Julie’s daughter, Izzy (Isabelle Mejias). Peter and Julie evidently reunited and married, but have since divorced and it appears to have been an acrimonious break-up. Julie now has custody of Izzy, but the pressures of being a single parent are wearing on her and the relationship between mother and daughter has deteriorated. In an early scene, Julie responds to one of Izzy’s taunts by slapping her in the face. Peter may have fared even worse: he now works in advertising, making a living by directing commercials. It would be difficult to imagine a job that would offend his younger self more.

The film is structured very much like Nobody Waved Good-bye. Julie frets over Izzy’s refusal to focus on school, as Peter’s mother once did. Izzy’s rebellious behaviour becomes increasingly criminal: she’s arrested during an anti-nuclear protest and eventually helps her boyfriend Jesse (Peter Spence) steal a van.

At the same time, Owen introduces some interesting reversals from the first film. Unlike her father, Izzy doesn’t see herself in atomized, individual terms; instead, she views herself as a part of society, reflected in her involvement with the anti-nuclear movement. The film delivers an implicit critique of the failure of Peter’s generation, as both Peter and Julie struggle to conquer their newly bourgeois instincts and to find a way to communicate with their rebellious daughter.

Owen is intrigued by the changes that occurred in Toronto between Nobody Waved Good-bye and Unfinished Business. The stuffy WASP wasteland of the earlier film has been replaced by a multicultural city, which Owen stresses through the music of reggae influenced New Wave bands like The Parachute Club and Alta Moda. (Both bands appear to be rehearsing constantly in the backroom of Toronto’s venerable bohemian hangout, the Rivoli, where Jesse and Izzy work.) Unfinished Business is Owen’s most buoyant portrayal of the city and much of the film’s charm comes from his evident pleasure at recording this seismic cultural shift.

By: Steve Gravestock

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