Fantasia Film Festival Review: Stanleyville (2021)

Featured image: Susanne Wuest as Maria in Stanleyville. (Courtesy of Fantasia.)

Directed by Maxwell McCabe-Lokos. Written by Rob Benvie, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos. Starring Susanne Wuest, Cara Wicketts, Christian Serritiello. Runtime 1h 28 min. Stanleyville had its World Premiere on August 15 at the Fantasia Film Festival.

Maxwell McCabe-Lokos’ Stanleyville is a unique film set up as a sweepstakes for five competitors to be put through a series of tasks. They’re invited by a blue backpacked mysterious recruiter (Julian Richings), who tells them their prize is, as it’s said repeatedly, “a Habanero Orange Compact Sports Utility Vehicle, at a wicked price.”

Our way into this competition is lonely office worker Maria (Susanne Wuest), who is enamored not by the vehicle, but to learn more about herself. “This is an opportunity to discover the true you that cowers inside the YOU you,” explains Richings’ Homunculus. Maria intrigues because of that, who seems content to be there, observing, as she’s not nearly as competitive as the others.

Each character is unique in their own way, and the characters seem to be the focus more so than completely explaining the “purpose” of the experiment by the end of the film, my biggest issue with the film. However, co-writers Rob Benvie and Maxwell McCabe-Lokos (and director) make up for that in creativity, showcasing a great variety of “rounds” which all feel different from the last. At the start, Richings comes out in front of a large chalkboard and explains there are “10 or so rounds.” “There’s only eight up there,” observes Bofill (George Tchortov), a protein shake salesman for a pyramid scheme. Without skipping a beat, Richings goes, “Sounds good, there’s about eight rounds.”

This is exactly my kind-of dry humour, and exactly why Stanleyville has an extra pep in its step whenever Richings is on-screen. I’ll let you discover the other competitors for yourselves, as Stanleyville is an impressive screenplay because of each character’s distinct personality and each of their arcs. It’s also good fun watching them interact with each other as we start to see them crack, which all happens believably.

Score: 75/100

Stanleyville premiered last night for its World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, and plays tomorrow morning, August 17, at 9 a.m. for its encore screening (where the film will be available to watch for 24 hours). Find tickets here.

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