It’s been 41 years since filmmaker Donald Shebib put Canada on the cinematic map with his kinetic, heartfelt nouvelle vague drama Goin’ Down the Road, the tender tale of two destitute East coasters (Doug McGrath and the late Paul Bradley) who jump in their car and split for the promised land of post-’60s Toronto.
What they find is more hardship, trapped in a chilly city that cares not for their plight. But the world certainly cared for Shebib’s cheap and charming film, with heavy hitting critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert giving it the solid thumbs up.
“We shot that film all hand held and rough because he didn’t have the money,” says Shebib.
“We made it on the fly with what we could get, but we had the luxury of time, shooting for eight weeks and completely non union.”
The surprise success of the scrappy little film was a double edged sword for Shebib, making his career while also chaining him to the verite expectations he had no intention of fulfilling.
After making a respectable living in features and television, Shebib recently rounded up the surviving gang including McGrath, beloved actress Jayne Eastwood and Cayle Chernin (who sadly died of cancer earlier this year) to revisit the characters in the twilight of their lives in his latest, Down the Road Again, a sequel that sees McGrath’s Pete hitting the trails with the remains of his deceased pal and making for his east coast home to scatter his ashes. What he finds is a family he never knew he had.
‘When Don sent me this script, I couldn’t be objective about it,” McGrath told Metro, “because it was like reading my own history and it was like the life for this character was suddenly continuing. It was very emotional and I needed time to absorb it.”
“A lot of people will be talking about Doug’s performance,” adds Eastwood about her returning co-star.
“To see an older guy on screen professing love for a woman as honestly and sweetly as he does…I’m getting weepy just talking about it.”
Shebib reflects on the movie. “I’ve never been a media darling,” he says. “I have strong opinions…and it’s not very Canadian to have strong opinions. Listen, I just want to keep making films and I just hope that people respond emotionally to this film because it deserves an audience.”