If we told you the best Canadian movie of 2014 stars Jake Gyllenhaal in two roles, would you be able to name it? We didn’t think so. On Tuesday night, the Toronto Film Critics Association presented the 2014 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award to Denis Villeneuve, director of Enemy.
Adapted from José Saramago’s acclaimed novel The Double, this Toronto-set mystery features Gyllenhaal as a disenchanted history professor, who discovers his exact double in an otherwise forgettable movie he rents at Queen Video. Unable to shake this experience, he seeks out his struggling actor replica and they begin tampering in one another’s lives. This results in all kinds of brooding anxiety—and some of the most extreme romantic confusion in recent movie memory. Ever get the feeling your significant other is a stranger? Enemy knows that feeling well.
If critics believe this is the year’s best Canadian movie and it stars an actor of Gyllenhaal’s stature, why didn’t more people see Enemy? There are actually some pretty good reasons for this. For one, the film opened on only 120 North American screens (compared to the over 3,000 set aside for Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve’s follow-up, Prisoners), making it difficult for even the most adventurous Gyllenhaal fan to buy a ticket.
Of course, there’s also a reason Enemy wasn’t released on more screens: it’s a deliberately challenging film that may leave you scratching your head. When I attended a test screening in early 2013, the film was already a fully realized gem, but only two or three members of the focus group shared my enthusiasm. Most were puzzled by the film’s refusal to explain its mysteries—particularly that surreal ending—not to mention its general lack of humour, charm, or optimism. (Guardians of the Galaxy, this ain’t.) If that doesn’t scare you off, now’s a great time to round up some friends and roll the dice on Enemy. If nothing else, it will give you plenty to talk about.