Climbing off the horse

Intense tragedy of self-imprisonment

Published: Jul 28 2017, 01:01:am

Sunday, September 17, 1991.

H. Music by Rob Carrol. Co-produced, written and directed by Darrell Wasyk. Running time: 96 minutes. Restricted entertainment with the B.C. Classifier’s warning "some nudity, suggestive scenes and coarse language."
    "I can't imagine living without junk," says Michele (Pascale Montpetit), a heroin addict.
    H destroys the I.
    "I just want to be normal," says her boyfriend, the luridly tattooed Snake (Martin Neufeld). "I don't want to be fish-dead."
    H turns the I inward.
    "I don't want to die," Michele pleads. "I just want the pain to stop."
    "I want to make love to her," Snake tells his drug-wasted self.
     "I can't. I just physically can't do it!"
    H, Toronto writer-director Darrell Wasyk's harrowing, low-budget look at drug withdrawal, is not easy to watch. A tragedy of lives bounded by "I want" and "I can't," its action is confined to the unfinished basement apartment where bicycle courier Snake decides that "I'm tired of this garbage lifestyle."
    Determined to kick the habit cold turkey, he boards up the windows and door and flushes their needles down the toilet. His waitress girlfriend wakes up to discover that she must suffer along with him.
    An intense, dramatically daring first feature, Wasyk's H uses its dungeon-like set to reflect the tragedy of self-imprisoned lives. Actors Neufeld and Montpetit are uncomfortably convincing in their roles.
    H offers an uncompromisingly raw slice of life while demonstrating that Canada, too, has its needle parks.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1991. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Shot in Toronto, H was Montreal stage and television player Pascale Montpetit’s first feature film credit. Her unsparing performance earned her the 1991 Genie award for best actress. Shortly afterwards she made the acquaintance of director Charles Binamé, described as “an artistic soulmate” in her Wikipedia biography. Since 1993, he’s directed her in four of her 21 feature film roles to date. In a particularly Canadian moment, Montpetit was nominated for two Genie Awards in 1996, one for her performance in director Jeremy Podeswa’s English-language drama Eclipse, and one for her starring role in Binamé’s French-language Eldorado. Working regularly in French Canada’s dynamic film and television industry, Pascale Montpetit turns 56 today (July 28).
See also: The reality of drug use and abuse is a frequent movie theme. Among features in the Reeling Back archive that focus on the experience are Canadian director Larry Kent’s controversial High
(1967), Daniel Petrie’s Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981)  and Jean-Claude Lord’s Mindfield (1989). The psychedelic moment is explored in two 1970s musicals, Ken Russell’s Tommy (1975) and Milos Forman’s Hair (1979). The social issues are discussed in Jonathan Blanks’s 1994 documentary Sex, Drugs & Democracy.