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NS-filmed "Bystanders" makes you think, and think again.

Seeing friends and familiar faces starring in TV and film is always exciting, especially when it's filmed close to home. When I originally saw the trailer for Bystanders, I was genuinely intrigued - not just because I had a friend of two in it. When I found out today that the feature film is available to stream, I knew exactly what I was doing with my evening.

Filmed in Enfield, Nova Scotia, Bystanders is written by Koumbie and Taylor Olson, and directed by Koumbie.

Official synopsis: Kyle is Justin's brother, Zeke is Justin's roommate, Lily is Justin's biggest fan, Sophia is Justin's critic and Ayda is Justin's first love. This group of childhood friends, now in their 20s, share their traditional spring weekend getaway and are forced to confront the elephant in the room: Justin.

In the opening scene, we're first introduced to the characters Ayda [Ida] and Lily (played by Marlee Sansom and Deborah Castrilli) - two sisters arriving at their family cottage before their crew of friends arrive for the weekend. After the rest of the gang arrives, we quickly get the sense that this is a tight-knit group with no shortage of inside jokes, memories at the cottage, and even a secret budding romance between two of them. This is complicated by one of the involved parties' previous relationship with someone else in the group of friends. You know, typical messy love triangle.

The film is on the shorter end, running 1 hour and 22 minutes, but is extremely well-paced. We get sufficient set up, with lots of relatable country vacation antics, including appearances by some recognizable Nova Scotian brands. After all, no Maritime weekend getaway is complete without local brews!

Without rushing into it, the main conflict is revealed in a smartly shot round-table scene. Cinematographer Kevin A. Fraser does a slick job at getting respective reaction shots of each cast member as we see their characters individualize, based on their perspective of the unfolding drama - which is centred around one particular character.

The issue at hand is certainly a timely one - a topic that has been especially illuminated in the past five-or-so years. Unlike some controversial subjects, this one doesn't always create two clear camps of opinion. At a high level, there is an obvious consciousness of right and wrong, but when more and more details are considered, it creates a much more complex discourse. That is exactly what is established in this key scene. What makes this story fresh is that we clearly associate each character with a different perspective on the issue that reflects their guiding principles, and gives insight to their history and relationship with the person in question. I found myself relating to each of them, which began to make clear the thesis of this screenplay. I only noticed after finishing the movie that one of the promo images shows a different word across the face of each 'bystander'. This cemented the concept of having various nuanced - even fluid - perspectives on a controversial incident involving a loved-one.

Bystanders showcases stellar performances by all six cast members. Cavell Holland's Zeke is cool but troubled; Katelyn McCulloch's Sophia is relentlessly rigid; Peter Sarty as Kyle is endearingly youthful; Marlee Sansom and Deborah Castrilli convincingly play fun but soft-hearted sisters. Taylor Olson's portrayal of the obviously flawed Justin evokes a combination of emotions that oscillate between cautiously empathetic and explicitly damning.

By the film's conclusion, we're given just enough time and information for closure, but with room to consider what I'm still having trouble deciding for myself: Is this a bad guy, or a good guy who did a bad thing?

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