Catholic Guilt and Teenage Dreams

New Waterford Girl, playing at the Yukon Arts Centre on October 24, is a film about juggling tradition and modernity. Living in a small and extremely tight-knit community, being normal is the only way to have any privacy; anything out-of-the-ordinary is scrutinized in a giant game of Chinese whispers.

All Mooney Pottie’s (Liane Balaban) parents want her to do is be normal — to go to church and school and not ask too many questions. But Mooney isn’t “normal”; she’s exceptional, she’s artistic, she questions the world around her. As a result, her parents take her to the doctor for medicine to subdue her passion, which they interpret as mental instability.

When a young girl from the Bronx, New York, moves in next door to her, she and Mooney become fast friends (being the only two unique people in this “normal” Cape Breton town).

Having grown up in a strict Catholic atmosphere, Mooney is surprised by the bold, free-spirited, take-no-crap attitude that her new neighbour has toward boys. Mooney also discovers her wieldable power over the opposite sex, but she isn’t just craving attention from boys. She uses this newfound power as a red herring in order to find something greater: a way out.

Her father (Nicolas Campbell) sums up the local attitude nicely when Mooney announces she has been awarded a scholarship to attend an arts-based high school in New York, saying:

“ Now you listen to me, we all had dreams ya know. All of us. What do you think, we just woke up one morning and there was five kids dere?”

It’s the vented frustrations of a Catholic man who has five children because he was forbidden to use birth control; hence Mooney has no bedroom and sleeps in the hallway.

Catholicism is a huge theme in this film. Young men and women who are taught nothing about sexuality and reproduction, consequently impregnate or become pregnant when their natural curiosities inevitably get the best of them. They are then taught to feel deeply ashamed of something they didn’t understood in the first place, and pregnant young women are sent to away to Antigonish to be out of sight, and out of mind. Upon birth, the child is given up for adoption (whether the young mother wants this or not) and the girl is expected to return home as if nothing happened.

With the help of her new found modernist companion, Mooney finds a way to turn this traditional trap on its head. A muddy, foggy old town in eastern Canada, steeped in old school Catholic values, is the perfect backdrop for rebellion.

This is a story about breaking the mould, about the need to evolve.

Growing up on an island, the consistency of the Atlantic Ocean beating against it on all sides, creates a daunting moat to cross: physically and mentally. The modern world serenades her whilst tradition tugs at her heartstrings. Wanderlust and passion coalesce in a young girl’s soul to concoct an “idea that is devious, sinful, and inspired”.

New Waterford Girl plays at the Yukon Arts Centre at 5:30 p.m. on October 24, as part of the Yukon Film Society’s Kitchen Party. For an overview of this event see Brian Eaton’s article on page 5.

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