It's been said that great moves forward don't have to be in mighty arenas; indeed, you could argue that some revolutionary acts are bold precisely because of their triviality. Breakfast with Scot -- a hometown favorite here in Toronto for the Film Festival -- is a heartwarming, fish-out-of-water family comedy. It details what happens to ex-hockey player Eric (Tom Cavanagh) when his partner Sam (Ben Shenkman) has to take in, temporarily, his brother's dead ex-lover's child, Scot (Noah Bernett). Breakfast with Scot shows us gay relationships, gay struggles, gay family. It is as agreeably, tastefully, charmingly slight and lame and trivial as anything the hetero mainstream could make out of the same plotline. The closest thing to a controversy in it is that, as near as I can tell, Eric and Sam aren't using real maple syrup for the title meals.
Eric used to play as a pro with the Toronto Maple Leafs; now, he's a sportscaster. (As a press piece I was handed leaving the screening noted, it's the first time a major pro sports team has let their logo and name be used in a gay-themed film. All I could hear in my head was a paraphrase of The Kids in the Hall: It's a Canadian fact.) Eric 's been so far in the closet for so long he's on a first-name basis with the shoe trees, though -- much to Sam's annoyance, as Sam would probably like to you know, hold his boyfriend's hand now and then. Much to Eric's annoyance, Sam has to take in Scot until his screw-up brother can get back from Brazil. And Scot is ... a bit of a fancy lad? Gay? Who can say -- Scot's 11 -- but he's boa-clad, fond of make-up and might as well be carrying a French horn in one hand and a three-dollar bill -- excuse me, a welded-together Loonie and Toonie -- in the other.
And if you do not know what is coming next -- lessons learned, sorrows shared, hearts mended -- then I hope you enjoy seeing your first-ever movie at some future point. But director Laurie Lynd, working with Sean Reycraft's script adaptation of Michael Downing's novel, finds a few places to show a couple moves in the race down the ice to the goal. Cavanagh is likeable and brusque at the start -- a little mean, a little blunt -- and we get to see how his relationship with Scot changes his relationship with everyone else around him. Shenkman is warm and funny; having dared to go up to his lover's office, Sam dares to mock his partner's cluttered swamp of sports-themed artifacts and images as only a true love can: "Nice office; you kinda got a teen-boy bedroom thing going on. ..." And Bennett brings off Scot's tiny-sad-diva conflicts well enough.
I doubt Breakfast with Scot will ever be seen on the big screen outside of the provinces and territories of Canada; one strains to imagine someone picking up a Canadian-gay-family-hockey-comedy for distribution in the U.S.. But it was a festival hometown favorite here in Toronto, and you can understand why; there's barely any sensuality, let alone sexuality (Sam and Eric have a house, sleep in the same bed and we see them kiss, perhaps, twice); the only violence is on the ice; the happy ending comes at Christmas. That positive, plucky optimism, cloying-yet-charming, makes it a huge break from much of the other Canadian fare at Toronto this year. Plus, it flatters and charms the Canadian soul with a lesson about the importance of family over fear, tolerance over troubles, self-respect over self-doubt... and good stick handling over brawling. Breakfast with Scot is a marginal, smaller movie: It may play, as they used to say in the Tetley Tea ads, 'Only in Canada, eh?'. At the same time, Breakfast with Scot has a heart -- loving and sexless, gentle and manipulative, slight and light and warm, but a heart, even still.