Today was my last day of screenings at TIFF 2017. I’ve been all around the world on this trip to Toronto, and I ended up beating my record by one film this year. In all (meaning I sat through each film entirely – I don’t count or report on the films I walk out of), I saw 34 movies…and I had a marvelous time.
My first film today was KINGS, directed by Deniz Gamze Erguyen. Because Erguyen had directed MUSTANG (nominated for “Best Foreign Film” Oscar in 2016), I was looking forward to this film about a family caught in the middle of the L.A. riots starring Halle Berry. Unfortunately, it’s a mess. The family dynamics are complicated (Berry is a single mother and a foster mother to several children). She bakes cakes for clients around town and relies on her oldest son to help keep all the kids in check. Daniel Craig plays a crazy next-door-neighbor who likes to yield and occasionally shoot a shotgun into the air. As racial tensions are escalating after the brutal police attack on Rodney King, Berry’s family is also going through transition…and everything starts to boil at the same time. Erguyen attempts to inject the film with some visual poetry of lava boiling under the earth’s surface, but tonally it doesn’t work with some of the silliness we’re seeing on screen (like Berry’s outer space sex dream). I wanted to like this film, but it just didn’t work.
Next up, I saw DON’T TALK TO IRENE, directed by Pat Mills. We had Mills as a guest at the Dayton LGBT Film Festival a couple years ago, and I’ve been anxious to see what he would do next. I’ll be honest, the trailer wasn’t doing much for me…but the film ended up being pretty terrific. This charming (yet unafraid to be crude) tale of an overweight high school outsider who wants to be a cheerleader is very funny and engaging. When she gets suspended at school, she has to do volunteer work at a retirement home as punishment. What results is hilarious and quite touching.
My last film of the day (and of the festival) was MY DAYS OF MERCY, directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer and shot in Cincinnati. Dayton’s own Karri O’Reilly served as executive producer, and she invited me to be her “Plus One” for a lovely dinner & the film’s international premiere with some of the cast and crew (including the director, the Director of Photography, folks from Killer Films and more). After the dinner, we all walked down the Red Carpet with fans, reporters and paparazzi clicking photos and hollering out for “Ellen” as we walked by (Ellen Page was right behind us, and everyone was hoping to get a great picture or an autograph). The film was introduced by the director and all the key people from the film were onstage and thanked. The film is a lovely, quiet romantic story about two women on opposing sides of the death penalty debate. Starring Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz, and Charlie Shotwell – the performances are all very strong. This was the first time that many of the people involved with the film had seen it since the score had been added, and the crowd reaction went over quite well. I think this film will find distribution, which doesn’t hurt to help secure even more films from shooting in the area.
So now I’m done with TIFF 2017. I’ve seen some tremendous work, a few stinkers and quite few films that I think will do well at THE NEON.
Thanks so much for joining me on my cinematic journey. (Below are a few pics from last night’s premiere.)
See you at the movies,
MANY CONGRATS to Karri O’Reilly & Her Team for a great film and a great premiere!