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Tommy Sexton…A Family Portrait

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Tommy Sexton

Tommy Sexton

Tommy…A Family Portrait is a documentary about the life of Newfoundland comedy legend Tommy Sexton.

Medicate him, the doctors said. The child is hyperactive. But Tommy Sexton was destined to hyperact – thus a star was born. Tommy…A Family Portrait is a warm and funny tribute from his sister, filmmaker Mary Sexton.

Tommy was a member of the irrepressible Sexton clan and was raised in the old port town of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Framed by family interviews and many film sequences the documentary colourfully portrays the child Tommy as well as the teenager and the adult. From childhood on he was a comedian and actor who made everybody around him laugh. His family describes his incredible talent to imitate people and to take on roles. His being different often brought him teasing from his siblings and other kids.

Sexton was performing on stage as early as Grade 3 and continued playing in local amateur productions in St. John’s until he began performing professionally. Showcasing astute comedy from ‘Codco’, the film features Sexton’s phenomenal career.

As actor, dancer, musician and writer Sexton got his inspiration from the people around him. His characters were all based on people he knew and things he did and saw in St. John’s. He would imitate his family or would sit at the airport for hours to watch people. This inspiration he would turn into funny, sharp witted, disarming and at times biting comedy. His satirical sketches often had a strongly political edge. Sexton’s performances were legendary.

Standing out from the interviews is his mother, Sara. “I was looking for miracles and I didn’t get them,” she says, remembering Tommy’s final battle with AIDS in 1993. “But you know, the miracle was his life.” A loving son, a wildly talented artist and a party animal, Sexton brought a giddy joy to everyone who ever saw him perform. Sexton, who was openly gay, fell ill due to complications from AIDS in November 1993. He died on December 13 of that year.

Let me tell you, this documentary is well worth seeing. Since I am not ‘from around’ I had heard the name and few facts, but basically had no idea who Tommy Sexton was. The documentary revealed an extraordinary personality that crackled with humor. With Tommy…A Family Portrait, he keeps on giving…


By: Melanie Fornoff

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