Hello NEON Fans,
I caught four films today.
My first film of the day was DUELLES (MOTHERS’ INSTINCT), directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse. This domestic, period thriller has made an interesting choice in renaming itself for English speaking audiences. Whereas the French title actually means “dual,” they’ve gone a different direction by calling it “Mothers’ Instinct” for English speakers. Here’s the short synopsis from TIFF: “When a sudden tragedy uproots the lives of two women and their families, they begin to question the relationships they once held so dear, in this psychological thriller from Olivier Masset-Depasse (Illégal).” This doesn’t really tell you much of anything…so I’m going to spoil the first 12 minutes. A little boy is involved in an accident that results in his death, and the neighboring mother who witnessed the accident begins to feel as though the boy’s mother blames her for not saving the day. As the story progresses, more unfortunate circumstances occur, and the mother in question begins to feel more and more suspicious. We often wonder “is this maternal instinct at work…or is this just paranoia (bordering on mental illness)?” Some of the score at the beginning of the film sets up the idea that we might not have the most reliable narrator, so we as audience members have to doubt whether or not we are always shown the truth. Though the film works on a number of levels, there’s ultimately something missing. I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not a masterpiece.
FIRECRACKERS, a French Canadian film from director Jasmin Mozafarri, borrows a lot of spirit and tone from FISH TANK and AMERICAN HONEY. Here’s TIFF’s short synopsis: “An intense drama about two young women desperate to escape their repressive small town, whose friendship is challenged after a night of debauchery threatens to undo their grand plans for freedom.” The yearning to escape their current life is honest, the performances are rich, and the camera is restless. But I couldn’t help feeling that we’d seen this before (and better) from Andrea Arnold.
And finally…a Masterpiece. CAPERNAUM, directed by Nadine Labaki, is a film that will clearly be a highlight for me at this year’s festival. I fell in love with Labaki with her film CARAMEL that played at the festival (and at THE NEON) several years ago. She’s a gifted director and a talented actress. Here’s the brief synopsis from TIFF: “Nadine Labaki (2011 TIFF People’s Choice Award winner Where Do We Go Now?) explores the lives of children living on the fringes of Lebanese society, in this political and heartbreaking story of a young boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world when they couldn’t properly care for him.” This film is about so many things, and it’s Labaki’s call to action for us to help the disenfranchised children of the world…and for the people who need paperwork to prove their worth. This film is heartbreakingly honest, and I couldn’t avert my eyes. The central performance is so strong – among the best child performances ever on screen. With over 500 hours of material shot for this film, the documentary-like style helps create a realism that is so refreshing in a narrative film. This movie has been picked up by Sony Classics. That means THE NEON will almost certainly play it…and I have a feeling it will almost certainly be nominated for “Best Foreign Film” this year.
BEAUTIFUL BOY, directed by Felix van Groningen, was my last film of the day. Though van Groningen was the only person to introduce the film, the audience was in for a treat when the cast and authors of the source material all came onstage after the screening for a Q&A. Here is the brief TIFF synopsis: “Based on the bestselling pair of memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, Felix van Groeningen’s film chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.” Timothée Chalamet gives another Oscar-worthy performance as a boy dealing with drug addiction, and his performance along with Steve Carell’s, are what help to keep this film above water – they are both magnificent. The repetition of using, recovery, relapsing, recovery is all part of how recovery from drug addition often works, but it becomes a little exhausting as a narrative device (as I’m certain it does for the families dealing with this very issue). I think this film could be used as a tool, and I think as the death toll rises annually for drug overdoses, it’s a much-needed topical film about an epidemic that is plaguing us.
I met up with a friend for a couple drinks after my screenings this evening, and it was good to catch up (and realize that he’s even working with more people I know).
Looking forward to a couple even bigger films tomorrow.
Thanks for reading,