103 minutes – Drama
Release date: October 20, 1977 (Arcola, Saskatchewan)
Canadian distributor: Astral Films
Based on the novel by W.O. Mitchell, the main focus of the story is Brian O’Connal, a young boy growing up in rural Saskatchewan during the Great Depression. Populated by stereotypes – the book was an attempt to explain the meaning of life to young readers – the film rises above what could have been a fatal flaw thanks to a terrific retelling from Patricia Watson, and Allan King`s deft direction. We meet Brian’s father Gerald, played by Gordon Pinsent, who is the local pharmacist and The Ben, the town drunk, played by American actor, José Ferrer. But it is Brian`s best friend, The Young Ben, and the friendship between them that is the true centre of the story. Despite the hardships of the times, the boys live an almost enchanted life on the prairies. But they are quite different in their approach to life and the more The Young Ben gets into trouble, the more ammunnition the self-appointed guardians of decency have to get the town council to do something about what they consider to be a local disgrace. But as Mrs. Abercrombie (Charmion King), and the Reverend Powelly (David Gardner) gather their forces, they are met head-on by the school principal, Mr. Digby (Thomas Hauff), and by Brian’s teacher, Ruth Thompson (Helen Shaver) who is no stranger to fighting for what’s right. When tragedy strikes, it doesn’t pick on The Ben or The Young Ben but on the O’Connal family. Brian is forced to grow up when he comes face-to-face with the meaning of life after his father dies. Who Has Seen the Wind was the highest-grossing Canadian film of 1978, winning The Golden Reel Award.
Also see: A review of Who Has Seen the Wind.