The Movie Archive

Getting Married in Buffalo Jump

Movie Poster of Getting Married in Buffalo Jump

Directed by: Eric Till
Screenwriter(s): John Frizzell
Starring: Wendy Crewson, Paul Gross, Marion Gilsenan, Victoria Snow, Murray Crutchley, Diane Gordon, Kyra Harper
Genre: Drama
Country: CAN
Year released: 1986
Running time: 1h 34m
Rating: 6 out of 10

Getting Married in Buffalo Jump features two of Canada’s bigger stars: Wendy Crewson and Paul Gross. There’s even an appearance on the soundtrack of another Canadian star, kd lang. Gross you’ll recognise from one of two TV roles, as mountie Benton in Due South or as Bryan in the first season of Tales of the City. Crewson is one of those faces that you might not be able to place so readily, but she’s had a steady career in the USA playing supporting parts in big films, such as the First Lady in Air Force One and Tim Allen’s ex in The Santa Clause.

The film itself is as difficult to place. Although not really a romantic comedy, there are moments which will have you smiling to yourself, if not actually laughing. And it does offer a supporting cast of comedy staples: the battle-axe mother (Gilsenan), the big city best friend (Snow) who can’t cope with the countryside and the mild-mannered high school teacher (Crutchley) who wants Sophie himself.

Sophie Ware (Crewson) is a lounge singer who’s been away from home since she was a teenager. When she returns for her father’s funeral, she’s at a cross-roads in her life, having just turned 30. Instead of packing up and selling, as her mother advises, she decides to stay on and turn the farm into a working concern again. Helping her is Alex Bresnyachuk (Gross), the hired hand, who has also recently returned to Buffalo Jump after many years.

Alex and Sophie are clearly attracted to each other but, when Alex proposes, his mind is primarily on business. He reasons that he wants to be a rancher and she needs a man around the property. But plenty stands in their way: the objections of Sophie’s Scottish mother and Alex’s Ukranian family; the issue of a dowry is raised (not from an expected source); Alex already has a son, the result of a teenage fling; Sophie herself is not sure that she shouldn’t marry for cattle rather than love.

It’s not the fastest-paced film you’ll ever see, but I like films which take their time. I even like films which are basically about little or nothing (The Hairdresser’s Husband, for example). Director Till (Hot Millions, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet) is one of those competent directors who’s had a long career in the UK, USA and Canada by being efficient and dependendable. There are no flourishes or surprise twists here. Buffalo Jump is a film about love and life in a small town, simply and effectively told with the minimum of fuss and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Gross and Crewson make an attractive central pairing and do much to win your sympathies. Their faltering courtship is authentic and the obstacles to their love are, unusually for this sort of film, entirely believable. Their extended families are well-realised, giving an insight into the hardships of rural life, as well as the potential clashes between diverse immigrant populations. The relationship between Sophie and her mother will be one which will resonate with every woman, who will be able to see a little of herself in one or the other. Both were nominated for Gemini awards, Canada’s equivalent of the Golden Globes, for their roles, as was the film itself.

If you’re an unabashed romantic and you’re off sick one afternoon, this would be the perfect treat to watch from under the comfort of a big warm quilt.

Although the picture quality is grainy, it can do nothing to diminish the beauty of the Alberta countryside, or the ample shots of a bare-chested Gross hefting bales of hay to the soundtrack of kd lang singing songs of lost love.