First seen at Canadian Film Festival last year, April Mullen’s Badsville is a combination of moody drama, love and deadly rivalry.

In a middle of nowhere town called Badsville, Wink (Ian McLaren) is the leader of the Badsville Kings gang. He is a tough, lumbering man who hangs out with his best friend Benny (Benjamin Barrett) and the rest of the crew, works at the local greasy spoon, and looks after his dying mother, who wants him to get out of town before his life is ruined. When she passes, he thinks about leaving his barren hometown, but when his co-worker’s beautiful cousin Suzy (Tamara Duarte) comes to visit, his life changes.

Soon Wink finds himself dealing with with love at first sight, power plays by rival gang The Badsville Aces, brotherhood loyalties and the consequences of not heeding his dead mother’s warnings.

There are familiar themes in Badsville -as it is part The Outsiders, part West Side Story and all tragedy- however it brings a fresh take on the living on the wrong side of the tracks narrative. Mullen, who has directed both horror and suspense films like Farhope Tower and 88, is adept at dealing with love and the human condition, having since directed the sensual TIFF 2016 selection Below Her Mouth. She continues her skill with Badsville’s emotional turmoil.

McLaren and Barrett, who also wrote the script, give strong performances. While McLaren brought a gentleness and heart to the hardened Wink, Barrett broke my heart with his portrayal of Benny. Despite his unsavoury behaviour, Benny lives a real tragedy; his lot in life prevents him from being who he really is, and his ability to love is a stunted struggle. Benny is afraid of leaving the town, Wink, and all things familiar, and his rage at having to keep a secret in an unforgiving environment is really well thought out and portrayed with passion by Barrett.

It’s not a familiar theme when it comes to gang fraternities, but it’s a refreshing take on love and the tough guy greaser.

The clean and artistic cinematography lent to the stark landscapes while the camera work expressed a shaky P.O.V. realism. Kudos to Simone Cillio and A. J. Gallardo for the scoring as well. You’ll remember the melancholy “Ghost” written and performed by Gallardo as the closing credits roll, a perfect melancholy ode to loss.

Although it may seem to hit familiar notes, Badsville will surprise you with a tender and tragic story amidst a harsh backdrop.