Conquest (1998)

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 09/28/02 10:00:16

"An homage to small town life, bu at the same time an advisement against it."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

A red Alfa Romeo breaks down just outside a small town in the middle of Saskatchewan, Canada. The driver, a red-haired Northern English girl named Daisy (Tara Fitzgerald), wanders into town to seek help, but soon finds herself stranded in a small town where everybody under the legal retirement age has long ago left.

Everybody except one man Ė the local banker (Lothaire Bluteau). He harbors memories of this town from his youth that are so strong that all he can do is try to think of ways to bring people back Ė or keep them from leaving. That includes loaning just about anyone money for just about any crazy idea they can think of. Prince amongst the bad idea brigade is the Boychuk brothers, who like to sit on their front porch and paintÖ naked, despite the fact that their farms owes the bank thousands of dollars. Then thereís the Vietnamese cafť owner who cooks what she wants, when she wants to. I could go on, but you get the point. Everyone here is quirky and silly and a little too close to retarded.

Daisy would like to leave, but the bus doesnít seem to ever stop at Conquest. In fact, the only bus that does stop at Conquest stopped many years ago and hasnít moved an inch since Ė itís now the location of the bank. So what can she do with no money, no functioning car and no way out? The banker comes to the rescue with an offer for her to take over the local hardware store in exchange for her car repairs. It isnít long before she begins to feel like maybe she was meant to be here after all.

What follows is a sweet little quirky Canadian flick about big city ideals and little town blues. Itís a love story set in a dying hamlet, amidst the usual collection of eccentric Canuck characters, with plenty of humor and a little nostalgic introspection thrown in. Itís also a somewhat fascinating look at the variety of accents and backgrounds and landscape that Canada has on offer, but for the most part itís about a woman who canít leave, a man who wonít, and a whole bunch of others who find appeal in the simple things.

Is Conquest trying to tell us to stop and smell the flowers or is it trying to tell us to cut the flowers and move on? If I were to hazard a guess, Iíd say itís trying to cover both bases and divert our attention with a little love story in the meantime. Still, who cares in the end? Conquest is a fun movie, not taxing on the brain, very easy to look at and Tara Fitzgerald is a pleasant piece of scenery even when the movie isnít moving too fast.

Like an episode of Northern Exposure, chances are youíll get out of it what you need to get out of it Ė a laugh, a memory, a feeling that you really ought to travel next time you have a weekend off.

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