“We all want someone to call us over”, right? Well then send yourself right over to Shane Belcourt’s Red Rover (2018). This movie celebrates a coming together and overcoming circumstances in an almost sci-fi but totally romantic way, with, of course, some character developing drama mixed in for good measure. Directed by Shane Belcourt and produced and co-written with Duane Murray, Red Rover is a low-budget Canadian rom-com that has been an official selection at several festivals since premiering in 2018.
Red Rover follows Damon (Kristian Bruun), who is recently fired, out of shape, a geological-nerd, and a divorcee currently living in the basement of the ex-wife who cheated on him — things are obviously not going his way. One night he decides to go metal detecting at the beach where a chance encounter with a strange girl named Phoebe (Cara Gee) leads him to a space program called “Red Rover”. Promising a one-way ticket to adventure on Mars, the program appeals to Damon as a way to escape from his life. Damon enlists the help of Phoebe to make his application video, but as they both search for things to fill the void of feeling lost they realize that what they actually need to find may be closer than they thought.
Cara Gee plays this movie’s manic pixie (space cadet) girl named Phoebe, filling that quintessential role to a T but still finding ways to imbue her performance with a touching sincerity that is usually missing from this character type. Kristian Bruun as Damon is a noticeable juxtaposition to Cara Gee; the somber ogre average joe against her manic pixie dream girl performance, he brings a perpetual sadness that is contagious to the audience. His Charlie Brown ways are easily felt by Belcourt showing Damon’s loneliness through very telling framing and Bruun further hamming it up with puppy dog eyes. Though the character arc of going from zero to hero by getting the girl is predictable, Red Rover goes about it in a heartwarming way — the vibe and atmosphere feel especially similar to that of 2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed, and also, Her (2013).
There is a small theme of colonization and the propensity for man to inevitably muck up that process, either for the environment, and maybe, even as far as the colonization of people and cultures. The protagonist laments that he wants the space program to be about creating something truly new and to put our best human foot forward, and I think that is a really nice sentiment, especially as we push forward into an uncertain environmental future in our reality and may just have to start branching out to space! It reigns in that sci-fi aspect with further commentary on our obsession with social media, with the trip to Mars being a vote-based competition. These already somewhat subtle themes are presented in the very digestible package of an indie romantic comedy, one that offers a sugar coating to a formulaic but otherwise sweet indie rom-com.
I wish there was more time spent on the space travel aspect of the film, but I realize a low budget may have kept this indie film firmly rooted to the ground. With more money and a more fleshed narrative as far as world-building of this near future, Red Rover may have been something truly special. Overall, it is an okay “fella got his groove back” indie that gets brownie points for its slight nod to past mistakes of human colonization and for its solid acting performances. From IndieCan Entertainment Inc., Red Rover is due to be available On Demand beginning May 12th.
MOVIE RATING — 6 out of 10 ☠️