DON SHEBIB’s 1970 Canadian 16 mm masterwork ‘Goin’ Down The Road’ holds its own even today. Starring Doug McGrath, Paul Bradley, Jayne Eastwood and Gayle Chernin, with songs by Bruce Coburn, the story is about two young Cape Breton Islanders who leave Nova Scotia and take off for the big city – that’s TORONTO – where the jobs are.
Everything goes well for a while, but then disaster strikes – the guys are laid off work in a bottling plant, food is scarce, they’re living in a dump, they’re homesick, Betty (played by Jane Eastwood who went on to a brilliant movie and television career) gets pregnant; and suddenly TORONTO doesn’t seem so friendly anymore.
I especially liked the shots of the city in 1969-70. Downtown looked especially morose, with some forlorn streetscapes dotted here and there, Many of the film’s sequences were improvised on the spot depicting the locals; there’s some nudity; and a surprising amount of swearing. In the early seventies that was revolutionary.
Even Quebec filmmakers were influenced by the realistic look. It shows in several French-Canadian films that appeared in the 1970’s. The MONTREAL Gazette called it “a superb movie, the finest Canadian effort ever, and excellent by any standards.”
A digital restoration of the film was released in 2017. ‘Goin’ Down The Road’ has been designated and preserved as a ‘masterwork’ by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada; and the TORONTO International Film Festival ranked it in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.