Toronto After Dark 2019 began not with a bang, but with a “boo.” (No, not my best opening sentence, but I’m running on three hours of sleep.) Eschewing capital-h Horror for an altogether more whimsical approach, the festival’s opening film was a refreshingly wholesome gem hailing from across the pond.
Extra Ordinary (2019)
The quirky brainchild of Irish filmmakers Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, Extra Ordinary is an effervescent and utterly charming supernatural romantic comedy that tugs at the heartstrings as deftly as it elicits irrepressible chuckles. The romantic-horror-comedy is a subgenre that I hadn’t realized I needed until my viewing of Little Monsters (2019) earlier this year—Extra Ordinary solidifies it as my current obsession.
The film centres on Rose (Maeve Higgins), a lonely but exceedingly lovable driving instructor determined to put her past as a spiritual medium behind her after her supernatural exploits result in tragedy. Unfortunately for her, her spooky reputation continues to attract desperate potential clients seeking her assistance, whether with paranormal pest removal or post-mortem marriage counselling.
One of her hopeful customers is Martin (Barry Ward). Martin is the now-single father of adolescent Sarah (Emma Coleman), who urges her father to reach out to Rose when his deceased wife, Bonnie, seems determined to spend her afterlife domestically abusing him. Though Rose takes some convincing, she eventually agrees to assist the family (helped in no small part by her attraction to the affable, if slightly dorky, widower).
No good story would be complete without an antagonist, and Extra Ordinary gleefully allows SNL alum Will Forte to voraciously chew every piece of scenery within his reach as Christian Winter, an aging one-hit wonder who turns to the dark arts to revitalize his long-forgotten music career. Across the board, the performances in this film are phenomenal: Maeve Higgins is an obvious stand-out, but Barry Ward’s turn deserves particular praise as *MILD SPOILER* he embodies multiple characters throughout the film. Claudia O’Doherty brings a biting comic flair to her portrayal of Claudia Winters, Christian’s avaricious and emotionally bankrupt wife, and Terri Chandler shines as Rose’s supportive sister, Sailor. Tight pacing and an engaging story keep the 94-minute runtime feeling brisk and balanced leading up to its satisfying climax.
Score: 8 jars of ectoplasm out of 10.
Missed the film on opening night? Don’t worry—a second screening for Extra Ordinary will be taking place at Toronto After Dark on Saturday, October 19th at 11:30 pm. Tickets may be purchased here.