One Week tells the story of Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson), a frustrated writer turned elementary school teacher. He’s on autopilot until he learns that he has stage four cancer but rather than go straight to the hospital and the inevitable, he buys a motorcycle and heads west from Toronto on a road trip that takes him to the western most parts of our country.
It’s a jam packed trip that sees him encounter everything from The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downey as a pot-smoking cancer survivor to the Stanley Cup. On his trip when he isn’t doing such distinctly Canadian things as “rolling up the rim to win” he embarks on a personal journey that leads to a greater understanding of not only where he came from but also, where he is going.
Over top of it all is a clever voiceover supplied by actor Campbell Scott. It’s a voice of God narration that adds some perspective and depth to Ben’s on-camera antics.
One Week features a fine performance from Lianne Balaban, as Ben’s level headed fiancée Samantha, and some interesting cameos from Canadian rockers Gord Downey and Emm Gryner, but it is Jackson who surprises.
The former Dawson’s Creek star—and ex of Katie Holmes—hands in an unexpectedly interesting performance. As Ben he’s a conflicted guy, pulled between taking the safe route—giving up his dream of being a writer, settling down to a quiet suburban life with Samantha and accepting his fate—or pushing the envelope by breaking free and embarking on a physical and personal journey, if only until his illness forces him to return home.
It’s that push and pull that either makes Ben the most selfish guy in the movies this year or someone determined to go out in a blaze of glory. Jackson’s performance and the film leaves that determination up to the viewer, but it is the actor’s work that gives the movie steam and purpose. He’s likeable but there’s more to the performance than charm. Jackson gets under Ben’s skin, bringing realism to a character that sometimes does unreal things. This grounding keeps the film from going off the rails in some of its stranger moments.
One Week has been called a “love letter to Canada,” and it is from its unabashedly Canadian setting to its strictly CanCon references—I doubt “roll up the rim to win” has much resonance for anyone outside the purview of Stats Canada—but its heartfelt story is universal and timeless enough to appeal to anyone whether they have the Queen on their money or not.