Toronto
1 min

Sugar rush

Beware the crash

There is brilliance and danger in the local feature Sugar, based on stories by Bruce LaBruce from the 1980s punk zine JD’s.



On his 18th birthday, a boyish young man heads downtown and hooks up with a gang of heavy substance-using hustlers and falls in love.



The less you know about the ensuing events the better because worrying about where danger might erupt is key to the film’s palpable evocation of adolescent anxiety and insistent curiosity.



The film has some bad missteps – and audiences will argue about what those are. But wondering where the film may careen off the tracks adds to the excitement. The LaBruce connection may hold marketing potential because of his reputed fascination with hidden worlds and challenging sex, but what director John Palmer and cowriters Jai Laplante and Todd Klinck have done is to tease out something very shocking in LaBruce’s stories – sweetness. There’s real heart here.



And much of that sweetness stems from Andre Noble’s break-out performance as the irrepressible Cliff. A film that can open with a painfully tender moment between a mother and son and, three scenes later, believably propel that boy into a hot back-alley sex scene, is worth seeing.



Brendan Fehr (of Roswell fame) gives a smouldering performance as the troubled hustler-boyfriend – all the acting is wonderful. Watch Nina Arsenault duke it out with Sarah Polley for best supporting performance, or Maury Chaykin throwing himself into a particular kink or Haylee Wanstall as the hyperactive 12-year-old oracle or Marnie McPhail as the world-wise-weary mother.



Scene after scene gets you hooked on Sugar.



* Sugar plays at Inside Out at 9:30pm on Sat, May 22 and opens theatrically late June.