Formerly bustling with traffic and booming consumerism, the 40 kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway on Highway 7 is now a desolate rural wasteland. Following the construction of Highway 401 in the 1960’s, the area’s economy took an oppressive nosedive and has yet to recover. For the inhabitants of Arden, a town just north of Kingston, the repercussions have been deeply felt. Filmmakers Derrek Roemer and Neil Graham’s intimate new film The Lost Highway documenting three distinctively unique business owners in the area, is an introspective tale that offers no easy solutions for this burgeoning problem in Canada.
The Lost Highway follows just over a year in the lives of elderly gas station owner Howard Gibbs, innkeepers Linda Tremblay and her partner David Daski, and senior art shop owner Sarah Hale. The three unique narratives form a micro emblematic observation of the shocking disintegration of consumer culture in rustic areas on the outskirts of the major Canadian cities. It is also a fascinating sociological study of how people deal with failure, on both a personal and financial level. For example, after Gibbs’ daughter turns down running the station and it is forced to temporarily close after not adhering to safety regulations, he flees the area repeatedly, unwilling to face both his and his beloved station’s impending death. The females in the film fare slightly better, however, with both Linda and Sarah turning to their close knit community for hopeful positivity and support.
With poetic stoicism the people of Arden face the area’s doom, with none of them sure how to resurrect it. Roehmer and Graham’s often uncomfortably closeup cinematic gaze on the three central Arden inhabitants is must see viewing for all Canadians, as we must band together to ensure such communities’ survival.