Greg DeLiso’s documentary Canada’s Best Kept Secret: The Natural World of R.D. Lawrence profiles R.D. Lawrence, author and environmentalist best known for his work with, and works written about, wolves. A traditional-style documentary with a feel that leans more towards television-friendly (which is no doubt due to its aspect ratio and use of other TV programs’ footage), the film is definitely more informational and educational than sensational.
That said, the film also has a rough and rugged feel to it, at least in the beginning. Until it finds its flow with older footage of Lawrence, photos and talking head interviews, the footage can be too handheld and shaky for comfort. It also chooses to focus, initially, on setting up the history of the wolf, and its transition over time from a positive image to a negative one.
It’s nice for the context it provides for what wound up being one of Lawrence’s major life works, educating the public about, and protecting, wolves, but it goes on a bit too long before we get a major mention of the film’s main subject. Perhaps the context could’ve been worked in less conspicuously somehow, allowing us to get to R.D. Lawrence immediately? I can’t say, but the opening context, while helpful in an overall sense, left an unfocused feeling in the short term.
I did appreciate, again in an overall sense, the rough and rugged nature I mentioned earlier, however. It lends itself to a more conversational feel, and the film, while serving an educational and informational purpose, never feels stiff or boring. While it could be called unpolished in spots, it never loses its energy. I also appreciated the fact that the film took the time to give credit to Lawrence’s wife Sharon, and show how their relationship dynamic worked, particularly when they began caring for wolves on their property.
In the end, while I’ve been aware of the transitioning opinions of wolves over the years, and the arguments for and against their presence, predominantly here in America, I was not aware of where much of the information and education on the animals came from. Ultimately though, while R.D.’s life did have a large focus on wolves, it was more his sentiment of all being connected through Nature that truly hit home for me. When you begin seeing connections between all things, it tends to change one’s perspective on all manner of life.
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