At its best, the Canadian drama 8:37: Rebirth is a showcase for a quintet of talented actors. At the center of the story are two men linked by an event from 22 years ago, when both were teenagers. Jared (Glen Gould) has been in prison for all that time. We meet him at a difficult moment in his life, as he is released and expected to start a new life for himself in a world he knows little about. The only thing that seems clear to him is a desire to create images, progressing from drawings he made in prison to canvasses at a local adult art class.
This is also a difficult time for Sergei (Pasha Ebrahimi), a university mathematics instructor with a wife and son. He was also part of the incident that sent Jared to prison, and his release fills him unresolved emotions. Or is it that it brings repressed emotions to the surface for the first time in years? Whatever the nature of his conflicts, he is unable to share them with the people he loves, turning only to the cold figures and equations of his work for answers.
Gould and Ebrahimi both give nuanced, engrossing performances, marred only slightly by script pressures for one to underplay and the other to overplay. They are more than ably supported by Amy Trefry as Sergei’s wife, Daniel Lillford as the building superintendent who becomes Jared’s friend, and Mark A. Owen as the police officer who was a part of the incident that links the two protagonists.
What hurts the movie is its plot. The nature of the crime that links Jared and Sergei is kept vague for far too long. A scene in which the cop confesses some withheld information about the incident mostly adds more confusion. And the ending, at least on initial viewing, seems like a terrible mistake, obviously lifted from a famous film that in no way resembles the one we’re watching. Upon reflection, it may in fact not be wholly inappropriate, but it still plays uncomfortably. Were director Juanita Peters and writers Joseph LeClair and Hank White afraid that audiences wouldn’t feel satisfied by this generally well-observed human story without some dramatic fireworks at the end? If so, here’s hoping they have more faith in their work next time around.