Some films are head scratchers. What’s going on? Who are they? Why are they doing that? Usually getting the answers is what is what keeps you gripped until the answers are forthcoming. Sometimes you have questions because you just aren’t sure what’s going on. During A Small Fortune there was a bit of the latter and not much of the former. That makes it sound like it wasn’t entertaining but don’t be fooled by ham fisted way with words. A Small Fortune is well worth a watch if you get a chance.
The long and short of the story behind A Small Fortune is as follows…Kevin Doucette (Stephen Gates) is struggling to make a living by scraping moss off the beach and selling it to Omer Tom (Bill McFadden). He has to try and make enough to keep himself and his newly pregnant wife Sam (Liane Balaban). One day he’s scraping away on the beach and he spots a bank note amongst all the seaweed and other detritus. “Happy days” he probably thinks to himself as he folds it up and tucks it in his pocket. A further bit of rootling around finds another and another until he finds a whole bag full of cash.
The rest of the film is fairly, but not entirely, formulaic. Should he keep it? Who does it belong to? What are they going to do about it? The usual sort of thing. But just because a story has been told before doesn’t mean it has to be boring. We all know the theory that there’s only actually seven different narrative plots but how many books, films, TV shows, and plays are there? In short there are plenty of stories that get repeated, tweaked, and told again. A Small Fortune does work in some narrative surprises especially when it comes to the body count!
A Small Fortune is an example of the Rags To Riches formula and fits in along with Cinderella, Aladdin, David Copperfield, Moll Flanders, The Gold Rush, and The Jerk amongst others. There may not be a lot of out and out surprises but A Small Fortune isn’t totally bereft of entertainment. It is beautifully shot; perhaps not in the same category as Luc Besson on Wes Anderson but still makes the best of the scenery on the location. The location does have a rugged beauty which is captured well by cinematographer Jeff Wheaton.
Which brings me to the bit I mentioned earlier about not being sure what was going on. First off I wasn’t sure when the story was set. Kevin seems to be using a horse to drag the beach but then Sam rolls up on a quad bike. There’s also a scene when a photograph is being taken with an old box type camera which means they have to stand still for twenty seconds. I wasn’t sure where the action was set. I didn’t recognise the accents or the money that was washing up. The money was polymer judging by the way that Kevin was washing it but dozens of countries have used polymer notes since Australia introduced them back in the eighties.
Anyway, it turns out that our story is playing out on Prince Edward Island which is a Canadian province. Canada has colourful, plastic money in dollar denominations so we don’t have to worry about the possibility that the bag has floated round from New Zealand, the Maldives, Vietnam, or Romania. So, despite my minor misgivings, writer/director Adam Perry has put together an entertaining story of desperate people, ruthless criminals, and the unlucky folk who get between them. All in all, an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half.
Movie Grade: B+
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!