Directed by Joyce Wong
Joyce Wong and Producer Diane Quon in attendance!
It’s a time most of us would like to forget—spinning your wheels at a dead-end job, nursing a misguided crush, as we stumble our way into adulthood. Joyce Wong breathes life into those long-buried memories for her debut feature, WEXFORD PLAZA. Wong’s low-key tragi-comedy, which made its bow at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, plumbs the depths of our post-teen years for pathos and a glimmer of hope.
Nineteen-year-old Betty (Reid Asselstine) toils as a nighttime security guard at a suburban strip mall. Trying to stave off loneliness with failed bids at cyber-flirtation and drunken escapades with co-workers, Betty meets and falls for Danny (Darrel Gamotin), a well-meaning Filipino-American bartender. Danny, a bit lost himself, welcomes her attention, and his mixed signals sets off a series of events that would leave them both worse for wear.
While borrowing elements from the coming-of-age cringe comedy, WEXFORD PLAZA neither mocks these underachievers nor drowns us in pity. Wong offers instead a deep, abiding empathy for both characters. We first follow the zaftig, awkward Betty as she befriends Danny. At the mid-point, the focus shifts to Danny. As Wong fills in the narrative gaps, Danny emerges as a far more complex character than we’d seen—a floater whose good intentions masks a hurtful inability to come clean with those closest to him.
Inspired by her own hometown of Scarborough, just outside of Toronto, Wong captures the soul-numbing rhythms and the dispiriting architecture of modern suburbia. Wexford Plaza, as seen in the film, might well be the loneliest place on Earth. The strip mall’s hollowed-out storefronts and dilapidated walls, as captured by Wong, only heighten the characters’ alienation. In tone and style, WEXFORD PLAZA evokes Michael Kang’s THE MOTEL (LAAPFF, 2006), another naturalistic portrait of lonely outcasts aching for connection in a bleak, Hopperesque landscape. And like that gem, WEXFORD PLAZA sneaks up on you and quietly breaks your heart.
Community Partner: Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles
Joyce Wong is a Toronto-based writer and director. Her previous films include: THE POWER OF LOVE (CELINE DION FANS IN KENYA), which screened at Hot Docs in 2010, and EMBODYING TORONTO, which won WIFT-T’s “Most Innovative Film by a Female Director Award” at the Toronto Urban Film Festival in 2009. Wong participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2008, and the Toronto International Film Festival’s Talent Lab in 2016.
Producers: Matt Greyson, Harry Cherniak
Director: Joyce Wong
Writer: Joyce Wong
Cinematographer: Maya Bankovic
Production Designer: Adam Belanger
Cast: Reid Asselstine, Darrel Gamotin, Francis Melling, Ellie Posadas