Chicago International Film Festival 2016: 1:54
Some individuals are different from what society deems normal. But people are afraid of different, and often shun what they can’t or won’t attempt to understand. Couple this fear with mockery and bullying and you have the premise for “1:54” from director Yan England. This French-Canadian film centers on Tim (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), a 16-year-old who has been the object of bullying at his school for the past five years, specifically by a jock named Jeff Roy (Lou-Pascal Tremblay). In addition, Tim is also questioning his sexuality after becoming infatuated with his gay best friend, Francis (Robert Naylor), which he desperately tries to hide from his classmates. However, after rediscovering his passion for running and seeing his best friend pass away due to bullying, Tim is determined to run in the 800 meter track final, an event that Jeff is competing in to qualify for Nationals. If Tim can beat a time of 1:54, he will qualify for the tournament and get even with Jeff for all the suffering he's caused. But an unfortunate encounter at a house party may cost Tim more than what he is competing for. The film focuses on the prevalent issue of bullying and cyberbullying in our society and does an excellent job in showing the struggles of children who are ostracized because of their dissimilar orientations in life, whether sexual or racial. England uses characters like Tim and Francis to show how bullying can affect a child to the point of extreme depression, manifesting outwardly in aggression, rebelliousness, and even going to the point of having a child contemplate suicide. The acting and action in the narrative is fluid, reflecting the typical life of kids going to school and participating in class activities, and Tim’s journey to be accepted and beat all odds is a positive aspect of the movie, giving the viewer a reason to support individuals who face similar situations. If anything, this film is a call to action to stand up for people that are oppressed, instead of joining in on the ridicule and jokes that make people feel worse about their lives. In the end, “I:54” is a great film about facing oppression and pain while running on the track of life.