Bystanders – Canadian Film Fest 2023

Bystanders Canadian Film Fest 2023
Tackles some severe and significant issues about rape and cancel culture, despite a jarring change of tone.

Bystanders – Canadian Film Fest 2023

Runtime: 01:22
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.

Six lifelong friends have to decide the course of action after one of them makes a horrible confession in . Sisters Lily () and Ayda () arrive at their family's cabin for an annual getaway with their lifelong friends Zeke (), Sophia (), Kyle (), and Justin (). At the start of the weekend, Ayda and Zeke plan to announce their new relationship. However, when Zeke suddenly drops a bomb about his best friend and Ayda's first love, Justin, the entire scope of this weekend changes.

Bystanders Synopsis

Bystanders is the feature film debut by co-writer and director Koumbie about a weekend gathering among six friends whose dynamic with each other changes after a horrible revelation is made about Justin, played by co-writer and producer Taylor Olson. During an intense moment, Justin's best friend Zeke lets it slip that Justin was suspended from medical school due to an investigation for sexual misconduct. After Justin comes clean about what he has done, his friends turn on him and each other as they try to figure out what can or should have been done.

My Thoughts on Bystanders

Bystanders makes a very sudden change of tone in the second half, as it becomes a deadly serious commentary on rape and cancel culture and how there tend to be shades of grey surrounding such incidents. While some characters fall under extremes, such as social justice influencer Sophia, who wants Justin punished, or Lily, who devoutly supports him, others, like Ayda and Justin's brother Kyle find themselves stuck in the middle. While the change of tone is jarring, and there's no clear resolution, Bystanders still tackles some severe and significant issues.

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This post was proofread by Grammarly 

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.