|A Look Back At TIFF21
|by Peter Sobczynski
Here is an overview of a number of the films that I saw that were presented at this year's hybrid edition of the Toronto International Film Festival
A week or two before this year's hybrid edition of the Toronto International Film Festival kicked off, it was announced that many of the biggest titles in the lineup--things like "Dune" and "Spencer"--would only be presented to in-person audiences and would not be offered to those covering it virtually. There was a predictable hue and cry from people who complained that they were getting shafted and while I understand their complaints--up until that point, there had been no indication that these films would not be among the offerings--it seemed a bit silly to get upset over not getting to see some movies a couple of weeks earlier than expected, especially when there were still so many others available to cover, many of which were not guaranteed to be showing up at your local multiplex in the next month back by an elaborate and expensive marketing campaign. Even without those particular films and not counting others that I happened to already see at other festivals this year, I still managed to check out more than 50 titles--ranging from the very good to the egregiously awful--that covered a wide swath of subjects, genres and countries of origin. Below are capsule reviews of many of the ones that I did see, some of which you have no doubt already heard of as well as a number of presumably unfamiliar ones that are good enough to warrant putting on your radar in the event that you get an opportunity to see them. All in all, it was an interesting spread of films and while I cannot rightly compare it to previous editions of the festival--this was my first time covering the Toronto festivities—it does offer up concrete proof that even in these weird times, the international film scene is managing to not only survive but thrive as well.
And now, on to New York. . .virtually speaking, of course.
AFTER BLUE: Perhaps the biggest WTF?--in a good way--title in this year's lineup was this seriously strange effort from Bertrand Mandico, a lesbian sci-fi/Western hybrid set in a future world where only women can survive and where a young woman (Paula Luna), along with her hairdresser mother (cult icon Elina Lowensohn), sets off to bring in a notorious and powerful criminal who goes by the name of Kate Bush and who she inadvertently released from her imprisonment. I cannot honestly say that this wild, weird and visually striking film made a lot of sense when it was done--it was presented as a midnight movie and even that hour might be a bit early for some of the oddities on display--but it did hold me in its peculiar spell for its duration.
ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT?: In this 1997-set debut effort from director Wen Shipei, an air conditioning repairman (Eddie Peng) driving a lonely road late at night accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian with his truck. Although he hides the body and drives off, he is sufficiently guilt-ridden to considering confessing to the police until he meets and develops an unexpected relationship with the dead man's widow (Sylvia Chang) that leads to certain revelations of the true nature of the dead man. Combining the enigmatic manner and lush visual stylings of Wong Kar-Wai with a number of classic film noir tropes, this works both as a thriller and as a character study and shows Shipei to be a director with a lot of promise.
ARTHUR RAMBO: The latest from filmmaker Laurent Cantet is certainly as topical as can be--just as ambitious author Karim (Rabah Nait Oufella) is celebrating the success of his new book, a powerful recounting of his Algerian family's life in France, everything comes down when it is discovered that he has posted numerous racist, sexist and homophobic tweets under a pseudonym and his claims that they were meant to be satirical are overlooked in the ensuing sea of condemnation. The idea is provocative but the execution is muddled as Cantet doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what he is trying to say--it feels like a film about cancel culture made by someone without a firm grasp of what it is in the first place.
ATTICA: One of the most powerful documentaries of this year's festival, Stanley Nelson examines the infamous 1971 uprising at the New York correctional facility in a narrative that begins just as tensions over years of abuse towards prisoners by the guards have boiled over into the biggest prison riot in U.S. history and takes us through the standoff that at one point appears as if it could be a breakthrough in the concept of deescalation via negotiation until Governor Nelson Rockefeller, urged on by President Nixon, elected to display a show of force instead with horrifying results. Using a combination of eye-opening archival footage and present-day interviews with survivors and other observers, Nelson has crafted an undeniably gripping and angry film that, unfortunately, deals with concerns and issues that are as relevant as ever.
A BANQUET: In this British horror effort from director Ruth Paxton, a family is torn apart when teenager Betsey (Jessica Alexander), still emotionally reeling from witnessing the nasty suicide of her seriously ill father as a child, has some kind of revelation that convinces her that her body now belongs to a higher power and refuses to eat. At first, her harried mother (Sienna Guillroy) thinks she is suffering from a typical eating disorder but when Betsey spurns food for several weeks without seemingly losing an ounce of weight, she is forced to consider that something else might be at play. The film is grim, intense and certainly well-acted but after a while, it feels as if Paxton and screenwriter Justin Bull were not entirely sure of where they wanted to go with it and the final section is, to put it charitably, a mess.
BENEDICTION: One of the problems with watching a load of films in a compressed period of time is that a certain degree of burnout can kick in that leaves one feeling cold even towards films they might have otherwise embraced under normal circumstances. I suspect that may have happened to me while watching the latest effort from the renowned Terence Davies, a lavish biopic on the life of 20th-century English poet Siegfried Sassoon (played as a younger man by Jack Lowden and in his later years by Peter Capaldi) that covers everything from the trauma he experienced fighting in World War I to his tumultuous romantic relationships with the likes of fellow poet Wilfred Owen and actor Ivor Novello that eschews the standard and-that-happened approach for a more stream-of-consciousness take that bounces throughout the years. Like most of Davies's films, this one is intelligently designed, impeccably excited and filled with impressive performances. Unlike most of his other films, this one ultimately left me cold when all is said and done because it just never quite clicked with me on an emotional level. That said, I would never advise against seeing a new Terence Davies film--even a lesser one is still better and more formally inventive than most of what you are likely to see at any given point--and enough other people raved about it to ensure that I will at least give it another shot during a time when I am not watching 6-7 films a day.
BURNING: There was a good number of horror-themed items in this year’s program but the scariest title in the entire lineup may well have been the documentary chronicling the period in 2019-2020 when bushfires destroyed over 59 million acres of Australia even as the government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to claim that climate change was a hoax. (Don’t worry--as the country burned, Morrison elected to take his family on holiday, presumably inspiring a certain Texas senator a little later on. The footage of the blazing fires is frightening and powerful, the interviews with those who fought the flames and those who lost everything are heartbreaking. As for Morrison (who, in one of the most memorable moments, is seen visiting a fire-ravaged town where his glad-handing attitude does not go over well), you will no doubt be shocked to learn that he was sadly unable to make time for an interview.
CHARLOTTE: This animated historical drama from Eric Warin and Tahir Rana recounts the true story of Charlotte Salomon, a young German Jewish artist who, in the 18 months before she was captured and sent to Auschwitz, created nearly a thousand paintings inspired by her turbulent life that would be presented as "Song-play: Life? or Theatre?," a work often referred to as the first example of what would become known as the graphic novel. Hers is a fascinating story worth telling but this film isn't it--some events are rushed, others (especially her relationship with her abusive grandfather) feel as if they have been whitewashed and, most surprisingly, it lacks the kind of distinct visual style that one might expect from an animated biography of an artist like her. Although well-intentioned, the end result just never quite works.
DASHCAM: Rob Savage, who previously did the cult favorite "Host," returns with a wild and wooly effort presented as the livestream of an abrasive Trump-loving indie musician (Annie Hardy, playing a hopefully exaggerated version of herself) who breaks quarantine to go to London to crash (uninvited) with an old boyfriend and becomes involved in an increasingly bizarre and bloody series of events after she agrees to give a strange mute woman a ride in exchange for a wad of cash. Essentially a shotgun marriage between the shaky visual aesthetics of "The Blair Witch Project" and the social satire and radical politics of "Repo Man," the film is certainly not without interest but the big problem is that the central character is so relentlessly loud, obnoxious and hateful that even its super-short running time (it has barely crossed the hour mark before the seemingly endless end credits begin to roll) will prove to be too much of her for most viewers.
DIONNE WARWICK: DON’T MAKE ME OVER: Like most of the celebrity-oriented documentaries of late, this chronicle of the life and career of the pop music icon and celebrated activist is not particularly revelatory or earth-shattering--the combination of archival clips, talking head interviews with family, friends and colleagues and snippets of those glorious songs results in little more than a 95-minute-long nostalgia bath aimed primarily at her still-considerable fan base. That said, this one is a little more effective than a lot of its competition because her career, which began with her triumphing at the Apollo Theater and found her confronting Jim Crow laws while touring in the South with Sam Cooke, becoming one of the very first celebrities to align herself with AIDS activism at a time when even then-President Reagan was hesitant to even say the word and winning the first Grammy for Pop given to a Black artist, is undeniably fascinating and she is clearly having a good time recounting it for the cameras.
EARWIG: Set in a vague version of post-war Europe, this bizarre head-scratcher revolves around a man named Albert (Paul Hilton) who is charged with caring for Mia (Romaine Hemelaers), a young girl who has teeth made of her frozen saliva that he collects and changes a couple of times a day with the help of some strange headgear. Having kept her shut away from the outside world, Paul is informed by his mysterious benefactor to get Mia prepared to leave in a week and at that point, things get really loopy. The latest effort from director Lucile Hadzihalilovic (who previously made the equally odd "Innocence" and "Evolution") is certainly unlike anything that you have seen before but after a while, it feels as if it is just being weird for the sake of being weird and starts to get very repetitive and even those with a taste for cultish oddities will have problems getting into it
THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN: Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this biopic on the life and work of Louis Wain, an eccentric British artist who channeled his own mental health issues, including his grief over the death of his beloved wife (Claire Foy), into a series of paintings of anthropomorphized cats that were so successful throughout the world that they helped to change society's attitudes towards felines from feral mouse catchers to domestic pets. The problem with Will Sharpe's film is that there is not really anything here that we haven't seen before--everything from the aggressively quirky visual stylings to Benedict's portrayal of yet another emotionally reticent Great Man of British History has more than a whiff of the familiar. There have been worse biopics centered on oddball cultural figures (see below) made but there have been far better ones as well.
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE: One of the biggest disappointments of the lineup was this embarrassingly one-note biopic on the rise, fall and return of infamous televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker that offers up no insights into either its central character (except for its insistence that she always just happened to be out of earshot when all the conniving involving husband Jim and his cronies was going on and was therefore as innocent as a baby on everything except caring too much) or why that brand of shameless hucksterism found such favor. (Even her genuine good works, such as her willingness to reach out to people suffering from AIDS at a time when such an act was verboten in the evangelical community, end up being given surprisingly short shrift here.) As Tammy Faye, Jessica Chastain delivers a performance that revels in the surface details but never penetrates the lacquer to show us the actual person beneath--what she does is virtually indistinguishable from the efforts of any number of drag acts who include Bakker n their repertoire. If TIFF has served as a launching pad for any number of awards-bait films in recent years, it has also be the place where a few hopefuls along those lines have crashed and burned the moment people first got a look at them. This is definitely an example of the latter.
THE GUILTY: Antoine Fuqua remakes the 2018 Danish real-time thriller, set entirely within the walls of a police call dispatch center, about a troubled cop (Jake Gyllenhaal), reassigned to fielding calls pending an investigation of possible misdeeds, who receives a phone call from a woman (voiced by Riley Keough) who says that she has been kidnapped and becomes hell bent on doing everything he can, rules be damned, to somehow find her and save her. The film is slickly made and compelling on some basic level but it suffers from two key problems that keep it from being anything more. The first is that while Gyllenhaal certainly give it his all, he starts the film with his intensity level already dialed to 11 and his efforts to push things further eventually become exhausting. The other problem, perhaps inevitably, is that this version hews so closely to the quite good original that if you have seen that one already, there is really no point to sitting through this one as well.
HOLD YOUR FIRE: In 1973, an attempt by a group of Black Muslims to steal guns from a Brooklyn sporting goods store went sideways, leading to an extended days-long standoff with police that would prove to be revolutionary when the police, still under fire in the wake of the Attica incident a couple of years earlier, brought in officer Harvey Schlossberg, who held a doctorate in psychology, to employ the radical idea of using negotiation tactics as a way to deescalate the situation. Although the incident has largely receded into the mists of time, especially in comparison to Attica or the hostage case a year earlier that inspired the classic film "Dog Day Afternoon," director Stefan Forbes brings it and the stil-relevant issues it raised about policing tactics to life with a wealth of archival footage featuring the incident as it unfolded and interviews with most of the still-living people involved with the events. The end result is a largely fascinating exploration of a story that, more than ever, needs to be heard.
INEXORABLE: In this Belgian thriller from Fabrice du Welz, a wealthy publisher (Melanie Doutey) and her husband (Benoit Poelvoorde), an author struggling with a followup to his hit debut novel, move in to a lavish estate with their young daughter and new pet dog and soon make the acquaintance of a shy and ingratiating young woman (Alba Gaia Bellugi) with a way with animals. She soon charms her way into a position as a live-in dog trainer but, as you have probably guessed by now, nothing is quite as it seems with the newcomer. The film is an unabashed riff on thrillers like "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" and its ilk but, with the exception of the good performance from Bellugi, it is content to merely rehash the familiar old tropes without doing anything new with them and the whole thing just runs out of steam after a while.
JULIA: There have been some many documentaries centered on celebrity chefs in the last couple of years that it is no surprise that the most famous of them all, the legendary Julia Child, would get the same treatment, here courtesy of Julie Cohen and Betsy West, whose previous effort was the popular "RBG" documentary. Speaking of "no surprise," those two words pretty much sum up the film as a whole--a perfectly genial compilation of archival footage and new interviews that charts her rise from a position of privilege to a life-changing stint with the OSS during WWII to the way she brought gourmet cooking to the masses and became an iconic figure herself that offers nothing particularly new in terms of raw information on her life or insights into the cultural and gastronomic impact of her work. The result is perfectly pleasant but not even remotely willing to take risks, an odd approach for a film about a woman who was famous for her own bold approach to her life and work.
KICKING BLOOD: In this very low-key Canadian horror-drama, Anna (Alanna Bale) is a vampire who has grown weary of her blood-sucking lifestyle, especially as she is facing the imminent passing of the elderly woman who is her one mortal friend. After a chance meeting with a rock-bottom alcoholic (Luke Bilyk) ends up with her helping him to sober up, she is inspired to try to kick her own addiction in an effort to become truly human once again, much to the consternation of some of her fellow vampires, who would just as soon use her new friend as a snack. There is nothing about the conceit of using vampirism as a metaphor for addiction issues (as anyone who saw "The Addiction" can attest) and gore fanatics may be put off by its languid pacing. However, director/co-writer Blaine Thurier handles the material with a certain style that is intriguing and the central performance from Bale is undeniably compelling as well.
MEDUSA: In this wild horror-fantasy-satire from Brazil set in a land where religious extremists have taken over and a gang of pious young women show their love for Christ and the ruling party by donning masks and roaming the streets in the middle of the night violently attacking other women that they deem to be insufficiently pious. When one of the gang members, Mariana (Mari Oliveri) gets her own face slashed during such an attack and loses her job as a social influencer promoting state-sponsored beauty norms, she gets a job in a hospital and begins to question the very same beliefs that she once held so fervently as she attempts to reassert her individuality in the face of oppressive groupthink. This second feature from filmmaker Anita Rocha de Silveira is a wildly ambitious work with enough ideas to fill a couple of movies (I haven't even gotten to the subplot involving the case of the enormously popular young actress who was also the victim of an attack and who seemingly disappeared afterwards) and if it doesn't entirely come together in the end, the combination of sly humor, striking visuals and rebellious energy should ensure its future position as a cult favorite while underscoring de Silveira's place as a filmmaker to watch.
THE MIDDLE MAN: In this extremely dark and deadpan comedy from director Bent Hamer, the seemingly ordinary American town of Karmack is so beset with misery and tragedy that they have taken to hire a so-called "middle man" to help deliver bad news to the loved ones of the victims. Ordinary local Frank Farelli (Pal Sverre Hagen) gets the job on a two-month trial basis and finds that his position now affects his relationships with everyone that he knows and that is before things spin violently out of control in the wake of a confrontation with the local bully. With its dryer-than-dry comedic approach and striking visual style, this film reminded me of the early works of the Polish Brothers, such as "Twin Falls Idaho" and the astonishing "Northfork" and while it clearly is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, those whose sense of humor tends to lean towards quiet absurdism will definitely want to give it a look.
MONTANA STORY: Scott McGehee and David Siegel return with their first directorial effort in nearly a decade with the story of two estranged siblings (Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague) who return home to the Montana ranch where they grew up to visit their dying father and eventually find themselves at long last attempting to deal with the long-buried issues and traumas that drove them apart in the first place. As films centered around people coming to terms with things go, this one is not especially unique and the abundance of overly symbolic elements (including the now-dilapidated ranch and an elderly horse that is about to be put down) do not exactly lighten the load. That said, the performance by the increasingly valuable Richardson cuts through a lot of the cliches by illustrating her character's deep hurts and resentments without resorting to simple-minded histrionics.
MOTHERING SUNDAY: Combining the exploration of rigid social structures found in "Downton Abbey," the extensive nudity of "Normal People" and the last-minute cameo by a legendary actress straight out of "Atonement," Eva Husson's adaptation of Graham Swift's novel tells the post-World War I-era story of a maid (Odessa Young) who elects to use the day off signaled in the title to have her final assignation with her privileged lover (Josh O’Connor) before he marries another woman in a couple of weeks. Although the amount of onscreen sexuality on display is a refreshing break from these inexplicably chaste cinematic times, it doesn't quite manage to cover up the fact that the story is just not particularly interesting and the ways in which Husson has chosen to open up the story (such as extended scenes set later on chronicling the maid's equally doomed marriage and her first attempts at becoming a writer) only prove to be a distraction from a narrative that isn't that interesting in the first place. As the maid, Young is good and Olivia Colman and Colin Firth get an couple of nice moments as the young man's parents but other than that, the whole thing feels more like a book report than a gripping narrative.
OUT OF SYNC: In this intriguing work from Spanish director Juanjo Gimenez Pena, C (Marta Nieto) is a sound designer for films with a disastrous personal lie who finds that she is experiencing a strange form of sensorial delay in which she only hears things a few seconds after they have happened. Unable to work and with her condition steadily growing worse, she tries desperately to find some kind of remedy for her situation and makes some shocking discoveries about her own life along the way. This is an offbeat premise that could go in any number of potentially promising directions and one of the pleasures of watching it is to see what Pena eventually does with it, thanks in no small part to the efforts from Nieto and the film’s own sound design team, who effectively depict C's plight in ways ranging from the humorous to the terrifying.
THE RESCUE: While most people probably remember the 2018 incident in which ten members of a Thail boys soccer team and their adult coach became trapped in a elaborate cave system after monsoons flooded out all of the exits and were eventually rescued due to a massive effort performed under the eyes of the entire world, many may not realize just how dangerous and complicated that rescue effort really was. This documentary from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, whose previous film was the heart-stopping mountain-climbing exploration "Free Solo," recounts the entire story using archival footage, dramatic recreations and new interviews with many of the participants in that rescue effort with a focus on a couple of British cave divers who went to Thailand and were able to use their rarefied talents to do things that not even local Navy SEALS were able to accomplish. Even though it is likely that most people going into this film will know how it all came out in the end, the film still manages to generate lot of genuine suspense as the rescuers struggle against all forms of adversity to find the kids, only to realize that the really difficult part--getting them out--was just beginning and tha time was running out.
SALOUM: Jean-Luc Herbulot's breathlessly exciting and inventive genre hybrid set in 2003 Senegalstarts as a trio of mercenaries use a coup d'erat Guinea-Bissau as an excuse to free an imprisoned drug dealer and fly him to safety in exchange for a hefty fee. The breakout works well enough but when their plane encounters mechanical troubles, they are forced to land of the coast of the Sine-Saloum Delta and spend the next few days trying to blend in with the other visitors. This becomes more difficult when one of the people there, a deaf woman, knows exactly who they are and becomes especially difficult once. . .well, that you will have to discover for yourself. Mashing together folklore and the equally hallowed traditions and tropes of the crime and horror genres, the film moves like a shot and has been made with a lot of undeniable skill, style and ambitions that makes it one of the most entertaining entries in this year's lineup and one to seek out for yourself.
THE STORY OF MY WIFE: Set during the 1920s/30s, Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi's film tells the story of a sea captain, Jakob (Gijs Naber) who, inspired by the advice of his ship's cook, vows to marry the very next woman who walks into the restaurant where he is dining. Lucky for him, that particular woman, Lizzy (Lea Seydoux), inexplicably responds positively to the suggestion and they are quickly wed. Alas, despite her devotion to him, Jakob cannot convince himself of Lizzy's fidelity and his suspicions, heightened by the arrival of a suspiciously close friend of hers (Louis Garrel), eventually begin to drive a wedge between them. This is familiar enough material but the big problem with the film is the relatively simple story clocks in at nearly three hours and, to put it bluntly, does not exactly make the most of the additional running time. Seydoux is, as usual, a delight but not even her efforts can help to bring life to the increasingly ponderous melodrama on display.
SUNDOWN: Neil (Tim Roth) is on vacation at a fancy resort Acapulco with his sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her two college-age children when they receive a call that their mother has died but when they get to the airport to fly home, he discovers that his passport is missing and tells the others to go on ahead and he will follow on the next flight. As it turns out, he did not lose his passport and instead makes his way to a more downscale hotel where he spends his time drinking beer, eating shrimp and fooling around with a local woman. Although the story eventually does offer some suggestions as to what caused Neil to do what he did, writer-director Michel Franco is less interested in answering the question of "Why?" than it is in merely observing him as he goes about thoroughly dismantling all the vestiges of his seemingly comfortable existence. The lack of concrete answers may frustrate some viewers but the performances from Roth and Gainsbourg are strong enough to hold interest throughout.
THE SURVIVOR: The latest film from Barry Levinson tells the true story of Harry Haft (Ben Foster), a concentration camp prisoner who agreed to fight fellow prisoners to the death as a form of entertainment for his captors. After the war and quietly wracked with guilt over what he did to survive, he tries to call attention to his story via fights with high-profile boxers that he has no chance of beating in the hopes that the publicity will help him make contact with the love he lost all those years ago and whom he is convinced is still alive. On the one hand, this film does not exactly bring anything new to the subject at hand and too often relies on the horrors of the Holocaust as a way to cover up some of its dramatic deficiencies. On the other, Foster delivers a strong and intense performance and the film as a whole is easily the most consistent theatrical work that Levinson has done in a long time, though that says more about his deeply dubious recent output than anything else.
TO KILL THE BEAST: After losing contact with her brother, Mateo, after the death of their mother, 17-year-old Emilia (Tamara Rocca) travels to the remote village on the Brazil-Argentina border to look for him while staying with their deeply eccentric Aunt Ines (Ana Brun). As it turns out, none of the townspeople she asks claims to have ever seen or heard of Mateo--they are more concerned about a mysterious beast that has been terrorizing the locals for a while. Agusta San Martin's debut feature is a combination of a moody Val Lewton-style horror saga and a more straightforward coming-of-age drama that follows Emilia as she tries to come to terms with her family's odd dynamic while preparing to chart her own path in life and while both are handled in a decidedly enigmatic fashion, the latter proves to be more interesting, especially with the introduction of Julieth (Julieth Micolta), a young woman who is one of the few locals to befriend Emilia. The more overtly horror-themed elements don’t quite come off as well but San Martin presents them with a lot of gothic-influenced style that manages to help maintain a sense of mystery and intrigue right up to the final moments.
VENGEANCE IS MINE, ALL OTHERS PAY CASH: In this wild action extravaganza from Indonesian filmmaker Edwin, the fear of the loss of machismo and sexual potency moves from the thematic background to the very heart of its narrative Following the loss of his ability to get an erection, would-be tough guy Ajo (Marthino Lio) ends up taking on increasingly risky assignments as a way of demonstrating his manliness to the other locals, virtually all of whom know his shameful secret. Everything changes when he goes after his next target and runs into his bodyguard, Iteung (Ladya Cheryl). She kicks his ass, they fall in love but even though Iteung is perfectly happy, Ajo is still determined to prove his manliness in ways that eventually develop a rift between them. Thematically, the film is all over the map as it flirts with a wide array of generic tropes but it never quite goes off the rails thanks to Edwin’s assured direction and the lovely performance by Cheryl. A wicked satire of macho culture, a heartfelt romance and a kick-ass action epic all rolled into one weird package, this film is a hugely entertaining and surprisingly smart work that offers viewers much more than the usual cheap thrills.
WHERE IS ANNE FRANK: In the festival's other Holocaust-themed animated feature, Ari Folman offers up a new approach to the story of Anne Frank in which Kitty, the girl Anne addressed in many of her diary entries, turns up, via magic realism, in modern-day Amsterdam in the Anne Frank House and, taking the diary with her (kicking off a intense manhunt) to find her friend knowing only the things that Anne noted in the diary—meaning that Kitty doesn't know her friend's fate and cannot understand why her name is plastered on buildings everywhere. As an attempt to both recount Anne's story (which is depicted in a series of flashbacks) to younger viewers and to remind those of all ages that she was a person before she became a symbol, it is ambitious and the unique visual approaches utilized to differentiate the two timelines are striking. However, the storytelling is a little messy at times, especially towards the end, and the way that the film suggests that the current problems and prejudices faced by immigrants today is equivalent to those faced by Jews during the Holocaust just doesn't sit very well. I confess that the film as a whole did not work especially well for me but I suppose that it could be of value for younger viewers who are only just beginning to learn about the subjects of the Holocaust and Anne Frank.
YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER: An Irish woman (Carolyn Bracken) with obvious emotional issues goes missing after attempting to drop her teenaged daughter, Char (Hazel Doupe), at school and when she reappears just as suddenly, she seems far more happy and outgoing than she did before. It is a change so radical, in fact, that Char begins to suspect that something strange is going on and starts poking around until she comes up with some horrifying answers to her suspicions. Kicking off with a brutally bravura opening sequence before delving into a narrative steeped in the traditions of Irish folklore, writer-director Kate Dolan has created a moody and very effective thriller that may move at a slower pace than one might expect but nevertheless manages to pull off a number of undeniably creepy moments that will stay with you for a long time after watching it.
link directly to this feature at https://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=4320
originally posted: 09/24/21 23:11:26
last updated: 09/28/21 09:05:46