Today’s schedule had me down for 5 films…and though I got into the fifth, I just wasn’t loving it enough to stick around (thus I won’t review it). Instead, I’ll go over the four films I screened in their entirety.
THEIR FINEST was my first screening at 9:30am, and it was packed in one of Scotiabank’s biggest venues. Lone Scherfig (AN EDUCATION) delivers a very solid film about the film industry in England during WWII. The story centers around a female writer who is initially hired to help write and flesh out the female voices just as the industry is also realizing that they need to make a picture that boosts morale on the homefront. Bill Nighy, who plays an egotistical old pro actor, is a scene-stealer…and the film will be an crowd-pleaser. Full of nostalgic winks and nods as well as colorful characters, this is an “acquisition title,” and I believe it will get picked up. There’s no trailer yet for THEIR FINEST…so a photo will have to do at this point.
MAUDIE, a biopic about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, was next on my list. With an outstanding performance by Sally Hawkins which is touching, physically demanding and full of hysterical funny moments that make Maud all the more endearing, the film is about Lewis’s relationship with her husband (played by Ethan Hawke) and her rise to fame in the art world. Challenged by childhood rheumatoid arthritis, everything from daily chores to even holding a brush look painful for Maud – but we fall in love with her desire to paint on just about any stationary object. Directed by Aisling Walsh (she’s done a lot of television work including FINGERSMITH with Hawkins), this is a slower character piece – but I think it could easily find an audience with Neon patrons. There’s no trailer for this film yet, but here’s a clip.
Once in a while at TIFF, I let myself see a big, splashy Hollywood movie. One that clearly won’t be coming to THE NEON, but one that’s receiving some critical buzz. A couple years ago, it was GRAVITY…this year, it was another sci-fi film – ARRIVAL, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Though I can rattle off a handful of sci-fi films that I greatly admire, this isn’t a genre that usually attracts my attention, and this alien film intrigued me because it wasn’t going to be full of explosions and battle scenes. Amy Adams plays a linguist who is hired by the government to attempt communicating with aliens who have landed 12 ships around the world. There’s some really lovely work happening in this film – from the central performance to terrific special effects. But there’s also some clunky ideas (especially in the third act) that keep me from embracing the film. I realize that many, many people will love this one…but it’s not for me.
My last full film of the day was THE SALESMAN, directed by Asghar Farhadi (A SEPARATION and THE PAST). The film opens with people needing to evacuate their building as it is beginning to crack and may soon crash. We follow a young theatrical couple (who are mounting a production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN) as they are displaced and soon find a new apartment that was formerly inhabited by a prostitute (though they don’t know that immediately). An incident in the new place leaves the couple forever changed, and the film then becomes a subtle thriller. With narrative elements and themes that I greatly admire, this film is well-done and solid – though not quite up to par with his previous two films due to a somewhat strained final act. There is no trailer yet for this film, but here’s a clip:
I wrapped up the night by attending a low-key party for lgbt industry folks. I was glad to meet a few new people, and I’m crawling into bed before 2:00…so glad tomorrow is the last day I have to get up before 7:00.
Thanks for reading,