Cape Breton Home of our Hearts
Kathleen Robertson stars with Doug McGrath in “Down the Road Again.”
The 1970 film Goin’ Down the Road is a Canadian classic.
This week, some 40 years later, the movie considered by many to be the seminal English Canadian picture will finally have a sequel. Down the Road Again picks up where the first movie left off, bringing us up to date on the fates of Pete and Joey, the working class guys from Cape Breton who travelled all the way to Toronto to try to make their dreams come true — and instead watched those dreams collapse.
While Down the Road Again can certainly stand on its own as a story about second chances, the two films are inextricably tied and in some ways, best viewed one after the other.
In the first, Pete (Doug McGrath) and Joey (Paul Bradley) tried and failed to make it in Toronto, and although Joey had married his pregnant girlfriend Betty (Jayne Eastwood), he doesn’t contact her when the two men leave town in a hurry.
In Down the Road Again, we finally find out why. The movie catches up with Pete, now a postman in Vancouver, as he approaches retirement. Bad news arrives: Joey has died. He’s left a couple of envelopes full of instructions for Pete, and Pete agrees to fulfill his best friend’s final wishes. They involve hauling out the old Chevy Impala, driving to Toronto, and finding Betty and her (and Joey’s) daughter Betty Jo.
Those final wishes also involve driving to the East Coast to scatter Joey’s ashes. Pete dutifully drives to Toronto and locates a still-irate Betty, who initially refuses to see him. Betty’s best friend Selina (Cayle Chernin) is still on the scene, and she helps smooth things over once Pete and Betty are in the same room. Betty blames Pete for taking Joey out of town in a hurry all those years ago, but she and Pete talk and there’s a thaw between them.
And for the first time, Pete meets Joey’s adult daughter, Betty Jo. When the time comes for Pete to continue on with Joey’s ashes to Nova Scotia, he’s surprised that Betty Jo (Kathleen Robertson) wants to come along for the ride. He agrees to it.
In Nova Scotia, Pete has some unfinished business of his own to attend to. As the story progresses, new relationships begin for several of the main characters.
Goin’ Down the Road gave us characters at the beginning of their adult lives; Down the Road Again shows what became of all that promise and potential some 40 years later. The second film seamlessly (and heartbreakingly) incorporates snippets of footage from the first, and the passage of time is just as tough to look at on the big screen as it is in real life.
But Down the Road again is an essentially uptempo film, suggesting as it does that some things — like love and family — offer a particular sort of continuity. Filmmaker Don Shebib, who would probably be the first to admit that Goin’ Down the Road is a hard act to follow, tells the story in Down the Road Again with energy and humour and he gets terrific performances from his cast.
Awesome soundtrack, too.
Credit: Toronto Sun
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