Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent (`Away from Her' `The Red Green Show - 1999 Season') stars, wrote, and directed this admirable little slice-of-life drama about a community coming to grips with the Canadian government as their local mine is being shut down. The setting is Newfoundland in 1962. Based on the same-titled novel by Pinsent himself, this one-man show has believable support by a decent and likable supporting cast. At times there's a bit of a soap opera feel to the film, but this modestly made movie has an emotional appeal that gains more traction as it goes along.
John and the missus (Jackie Burroughs) are a compatible odd couple. She's practical in a dreamy sort of way (if you get my oxymoronic drift) and he's idealistic and stubborn. After attending a labor meeting, John discovers layoffs are coming to the mine. They announce the end of the night shift, but the bad news is being eased on them. One day a tragic mine explosion occurs, and the minors need to be evacuated. Above the ground during the ordeal is a suspicious man who makes the whole deliberation look devised. John and the missus have a different take about the nature of events and what needs to be done.
Besides a beloved worker found on his deathbed, the town faces a grim prospect: They must pick up their belongings and move elsewhere, even if the Canadian government will compensate them $1,000 per move, $200 per family member. Most of them accept, except for John who'll have none of it. As one official tries to soothe John, he puts his hand on John's shoulder. John, who won`t suffer fools gladly, lets him know, "What else would you like to do with that hand before I shove it down your throat?"
Also different is their eldest son, Matt (Randy Follett), who has brought his newlywed wife, Faith (Jessica Steen) back home. "What a flower Matt's picked," marvels one neighbor. Young Robert is still a boy, but some tender scenes show how affectionate a mentor John is for his son during those formative years. As siblings tend to do, Matt is decidedly different than his father, but Robert undoubtedly will be more like him. The missus confronts Matt when he's indecisive about his plans with his new wife: "Make up your mind: Stay or go."
Unlike his son, John is decisive. Can he convince the town to "fight city hall," stand up and stay in their community? In perhaps the best scene of the movie, John and his companions confront Burgess, a fast-talking huckster store owner who is selling off his merchandise before he moves.
How they come to grips with adversity, how they live their lives, and the decisions they make propel this rough gem into an engaging movie experience. Released in 1987, the film comes from the era of `Ordinary People' and 'Local Hero,' and while the caliber is below these two films, I was strongly reminded of the latter. With conviction, ideals, a supple hand, and a surprising resolution, 'John and the Missus' is worth a look.