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VOD Squad: 'Orphan Black’s' Tatiana Maslany & 'Downton Abbey’s' Tom Cullen as troubled lovers in ‘The Other Half'

It's no small feat to get a first feature off the ground: Just ask Canadian filmmaker Joey Klein, who spent five years to get backing for his directorial debut, The Other Half.

Starring Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany and Downton Abbey's Tom Cullen, the Canadian production is an affecting, dark romantic drama about two damaged lonely souls who find a measure of salvation in each other's arms.

The film will be available Friday, March 10, at select theaters (locally at the AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24) and on VOD and most streaming sites including iTunes and Vudu.

Klein said he used the time to perfect the story.

"I got to sit with the script for five years," Klein said in a  conference call that also included Maslany and Cullen. "And you rarely get that much time to develop a story, so Tat [Maslany] and I really were able to work on the characters."

Cullen came on board six months before production began. He said it gave him time to discuss his character with Maslany and Klein.

"But once we started, we only had 16 days to shoot the whole thing," said Klein. "So we really had to jump into it."

The Other Half features Maslany, 31, as Emily, a young painter battling, not always successfully, bipolar disorder. She lives at home with her father (Henry Czerny) and stepmother (Suzanne Clément) whose unflagging support she finds stifling. Tempted by the creative spark she feels when she's manic, she tends to go off her medication.

Cullen plays Nickie, a depressive and aggressive personality: A would-be musician who works as a taxi driver, he continues to mourn the loss of  his younger brother who disappeared five years earlier.

In the opening scene, he picks a fight outside a nightclub.

"When we meet Nickie, he's' been stuck in the same place for five years. He has gone through a lot of grief and guilt … and he's a very inaccessible person," said Cullen.

"The opening is really difficult. I remember watching it myself thinking, 'wow this is really hard work [for] viewers!' But it does pay off."

Cullen said Nickie finds acceptance in Emily, who allows him to open up.

At first, she comes off as the sun to his dark moon. She's utterly light, open, happy. Or at least that's the image she projects, said Maslany.

"Emily projects to the world a sunny, positive, innocent exterior. And that's what she initially shows to Nickie," Maslany said. "But he's looking at her thinking 'I know there's more there'. While she's looking at him thinking 'I know there's more there than this toughness and aggression."

The couple's love, Maslany said, allows each to open up more honestly.

"He sees Emily so clearly, she can't hide her darker side," she said. "And she allows him to reveal something that is frightening for a man like him, who has been raised to believe that a man shouldn't have emotions, shouldn't be in pain."

Other titles of note

Brimstone. Duch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven follows up his acclaimed WWII drama, Winter in Wartime with a Western about justice on the American Frontier starring Dakota Fanning as a wrongly-accused fugitive who is hunted by a violent, vengeful preacher (Guy Pearce). Costars include Emilia Jones and Game of Thrones stars Carice van Houten and Kit Harington. The film will be available Friday, March 10 on VOD and digital platforms. It also will open Friday at select theaters (locally at Carmike Ritz 16 in Vorhees). No word yet on a release date for the DVD/Blu-ray editions.

Savageland. When a small Arizona town near the Mexican border is wiped out, the lone survivor is arrested and charged with mass murder. But did he really do it? Or did the residents fall victim to a vicious band of marauding creatures? A faux crime documentary directed by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert and David Whelan, the violent shocker resonates with folks debating illegal immigration and other political issues. Available now on VOD and all digital platforms. No word yet on a release date for the DVD/Blu-ray editions.

Jackie. Natalie Portman gives a critically acclaimed performance as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in Chilean master director Pablo Larrain's drama about President Kennedy's assassination and its aftermath as seen from his widow's point of view. Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup and John Hurt costar. Available now on all platforms including DVD/Blu-ray.

Sing! Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane and Scarlett Johansson provide voices for the loveable characters in this animated 3D musical comedy for all ages about a motley group of animals who enter a singing competition. It features a wide selection of classic songs and one new tune especially written and recorded for the film by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande. Available now on VOD and digital platforms, due March 21 on Blu-ray/DVD.

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