Children often want to believe their toys, particularly dolls, are real. In fact advertisers tell children they practically are and come from a magical world or toymaker that gives them life for which you are now responsible. But eventually kids grow out of such make-believe ideas and gradually the toys themselves. In Patch Town, this notion is more than a possibility but a horrific way of life for an entire population that exists unaware of their true origin.
Patch Town is a dark and depressing place. Most of its inhabitants are employed at the factory that consumes the town, harvesting cabbages and releasing the tiny babies from within them. The consequences for breaking the rules, i.e. removing any “property” from the facility, is a severe beating at the hands of the factory owner’s henchman and agonizing re-education. But for some, the desire to be parents is worth the risk. Jon (Rob Ramsay) and Mary (Stephanie Pitsiladis) know they can’t hide their baby for long, so they escape the oppressive town for the riskier big city. However Jon is haunted by vague memories that are the key to freeing all of Patch Town from the evil grip of the Child Catcher (Julian Richings) — he just needs to find his mother (Zoie Palmer).
This film draws on the fanciful Russian tale explaining where babies come from: they are said to be born in cabbages rather than delivered by storks as is supposed in North America. Although a more familiar and deeper connection for many viewers will probably be to ‘80s toy phenomenon, Cabbage Patch Kids. Similarly, the children are brought forth from the leafy vegetable and then adopted out to other youngsters who care for them. It even goes as far as to make Jon look like a grown version of the doll.
For a lower budget genre movie and feature directorial debut, the visuals are surprisingly striking. The imposing darkness and machines are reminiscent of German expressionism as the dark shadows shield the heroes from detection but also conceal the wrongdoings of the villains. It gives the whole picture a surreal quality that not only complements, but enhances, the narrative. In contrast,the more vibrant colours of their freedom pop off the screen.
Richings is a staple of Canadian productions, having appeared in countless film and TV roles. His tall, slim physique and unruffled demeanour lend themselves well to menacing characters. Conversely, Ramsay and Jon are the complete opposites of Richings and the Child Catcher. Jon is very agreeable, displaying gentle naivety and endless decency. Suresh John provides a third personality, portraying the outrageous sidekick character who contributes amusing bouts of sarcasm yet is won over by Jon’s kindness.