TIFF 2018 Interview: Sarah Gadon and director Matthew Hannam Talk “Paseo”

One-night stands can end in any way. But Alice, who’s in Spain and just finished working on her latest film, happens to miss her flight and thought she can have, let’s say it in Spanish, la noche passionata. But what she did not know though is that the night has its own dark, sinister outcome, which Alice is yet to get ready to comprehend.

“Paseo” is based on Sarah Gadon’s story and the screenplay is written and directed by Mathew Hannam. It follows Alice, a young woman who expresses her wish to explore more of the city of Barcelona while she awaits for her flight. But after missing it, don’t ask how, she goes to a bar where she meets a handsome man. As the night goes by and Alice is getting more drunk, she, whether she realizes or not, finds herself in the room of the same man hoping to conclude the night on a logical note. But the woman didn’t know that who she was or whoever she wanted to become won’t matter as what happens in the same room will change her forever.

During the Toronto International Film Festival, I had the great pleasure to sit down with the gifted and versatile Sarah Gadon and the director of “Paseo”, who flawlessly directs this life-teaching piece to bring it to us on the silver screen.

MOVIEMOVESME:  So, this is your first time writing a story and you came up with the story of Alice. What is it that inspired you?

Sarah Gadon: I think, Matt and I had spoken a lot, leading up the short film, about our feelings. What it’s like to travel, and to travel for work and to kind of, be in these incredible cities or these amazing situations, but to often be alone in them. And that sense of alienation that you have.

And especially as an actor, there’s this kind of perception of you, that people have. People, they look at you and they look at what you’re doing and your image and think … Oh, that’s so fun or glamorous or all these things. But really sometimes, it’s not, it’s the opposite of what, the kind of, veneer of who are you, is.

So that was really a driving force, in terms of creating Alice, and what her kind of journey would be, throughout the short.

MOVIEMOVESME: Is that how you ended up being a part of this short?

Matthew Hannam:  No, I mean, we had been working together and we’re together. So we had, like a … You know, I wanted to make a film and I’d written something, because we wanted to make a film together. So, I was just, you know, writing about how I felt at the time. Because I travel for work as well, and I’d been away for almost a year, on the road, and I just felt very tired. You know, and I felt very isolated and alienated, by all these. The funny thing about making movies, is you don’t go to bad cities. You just go to the best cities.

Sarah Gadon:  Well, maybe as an editor you don’t go to … I mean, I go everywhere.

Matthew Hannam: And she was in some rough places. You generally go where the directors are, and so, I was living my life between New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Paris, Montreal and Toronto and all these major places. And I really love cities and I love … But, I don’t like being a tourist and I don’t like sightseeing. And so, I just started having this feeling, where I’d been in Barcelona for two months and I just started thinking about how ironic it is, that you can be in these amazing places and feel totally bored, in a way.

MOVIEMOVESME:  Sarah, how was it for you to play the character that you created?

Sarah Gadon: It was really great, because I had just finished shooting Alias Grace, which was very structured and rigid. There was no improvisation, it was all very much focusing on the written word, and Sarah Polly didn’t want you to stray from that at all. And that’s fine, you know, some jobs are like that. Some jobs are very kind of, restricted. And so, part of the reason I wanted to do this short, was I wanted to just take part in something, that was a bit more, experimental and a little more free, in terms of the form and the style and technique. And so, I had just finished that, and I was also really exhausted when I finished Alias Grace. So I felt really, kind of, like I was having an out-of-body experience, which was really good for the character, I think.

MOVIEMOVESME:  I’m going to ask a funny question – What do you think is the moral of “Paseo”? Is it just to never miss your flight or do not engage in a short term relationship as you don’t know how it’s going to end?

Sarah Gadon: I don’t know if it’s so much of the moral, kind of, it is. I know that when I’m by myself, for a long period, of time, and I’m feeling lonely and disconnected from my life, I often have these feelings, like, I could make one wrong decision and unravel everything. Insanity or falling off the edge, seems like a very close thing to you, if you just were to turn left, instead of turning right. And that was the real feeling, I feel, I get … when I’m by myself for a long period, of time. And I think that’s really what we achieved tonally in the short.

Matthew Hannam:  You know, the thing about being alone, for most of your time. Like, most of the time in your life, is that you can’t totally disconnect yourself. But if you try to stay too connected to a world that you’re not participating in, you start to pervert your opinion of that world. You know, I think that, when you spend all of your time away, and then you spend all of that time, trying to live the life that you were living at home, you don’t experience either of them. And I think that there’s this collision that happens and you know, Sarah and I are lucky that we can travel together a lot of the time. But you know, it’s really, really, hard to participate in something that you’re not present for. And I think, that’s something that we both struggle with. At least, I was trying to express something about.

You know, there’s not a lot of literal ideas in the movie. It was a movie that was developed, based on what we could pull off. And I could only work with so many actors, and I could only have so many locations and we had to shoot in two different cities. And so, it’s more of an impression than a moral tale, I think. It’s more of an impression of a feeling of isolation and disconnection.

MOVIEMOVESME:  Sarah, how do you picture Alice? Is she a victim or just a villain of circumstances?

Sarah Gadon: Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t know if you can answer that, it’s really everyone’s perception, when they watch the movie. I certainly don’t see her, as a victim, but I do see her as somebody who’s trapped.

Matthew Hannam: I mean, that’s the idea, right? She is? At least my concept of the movie is that, she’s a … A lot of times we feel that we’re not in control of our own lives, but that is an external thing. And internally, I think, you just have to … You are the person who is living your life and no one’s living it for you, so.

Sarah Gadon: Yeah, I think the victim kind of, has more of a passive association, with it. Whereas I would say, that she is making bad decisions, because she feels trapped.

Matthew Hannam: Well, I think that she just wants something, that’s intangible. And I think that when you want something that’s intangible, you end up getting something you don’t want, you know?

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