Thursday, 13 September 2012

TIFF12 Reviews: 3, Come Out and Play, Disconnect, Dormant Beauty, Eat Sleep Die, English VIinglish, First Comes Love

3 (Uruguay / Germany / Argentina / Chile). Directed and co-written by Pablo Stoll Ward (with Gonzalo Delgado Galiana), this film focuses on three members of a family: a divorced mother, Graciela (Sara Bessio) and father, Rodolfo, (Humberto de Vargas), and their daughter, Ana (Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy). Although mother and daughter live together, they are disconnected from each other and are just as dissatisfied with their own lives as Rodolfo is with his. We have scenes with mother and daughter passing each other like ships in the night as they enter and exit their apartment, and shots of a lonely Rodolfo alienated from his new wife, whom we never see. Rather than successfully reaching out to each other, they try to connect elsewhere. Graciela, who visits her aunt in the hospital, forms a relationship with a man who visits an aging friend; Ana tries to connect with her boyfriend, but is really going through the motions which lack any real intimacy; and Rodolfo can only connect with the houseplants that have taken over his balcony. Over the course of the film, this triptych gradually transforms itself into a realistic family portrait.

COME OUT AND PLAY (Mexico). After seeing this film, I agree completely with Midnight Madness programmer, Colin Geddes, that it is indeed "reminiscent of the foreboding atmosphere of The Birds". Upon arrival at a small Mexican island resort a couple discover, to their mounting horror, that the innocent-looking children they see smiling and playing in this beautiful setting are, in fact, menacing psychopaths intent on murder. Director, Makinov knows how to pace his film, building the suspense and enveloping us in an cloud of tension before the action begins. Credible performances by Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw as the married couple allows us to tap into the emotional chaos of the pair; we feel the desperation in their attempts to escape their waking nightmare, and we empathize with rancisco's role as protector, and Beth's role as the expectant mother of their third child. Empty street shots, overhead shots of the maze-like island, and the stillness of children perched on fences and balconies waiting to amass all add to the claustrophobic nature of this dramatic horror film.

DISCONNECT (USA). Once you get past the realization that Alexander Skårsgard and Paula Patton will never look plain, no matter how bedraggled the make up and wardrobe people attempt to style them) you will get caught up in their portrayal of a married couple coping with the death of their baby and the new stress of identity theft. Documentary filmmaker, Henry Alex Rubin, tries his hand at fiction in this cyber-focused narrative feature that also stars Jason Bateman and Hope Davis as a couple whose son is the victim of online bullying, Frank Grillo as a cyber cop who's relationship with his son has suffered since the death of his wife, and Andrea Riseborough as a reporter who attempts to expose the world of underage online sex workers. The various stories are taken from the headlines, but seeing them all play out in front of our eyes is a reminder how disconnected we are from the people who are physically close to us, and how much, for good or ill, we share with strangers. There are no easy answers to our relationship to the internet, and Andrew Stern's script doesn't offer any pat answers to make us feel better. What the film does offer are wonderful performances by a very tight ensemble cast.

DORMANT BEAUTY (Italy / France) Marco Bellocchio riffs on euthanasia and Sleeping Beauty in his latest film. Inspired by the Italian Eluana Englaro right-to-die court case, Bellocchio's film depicts two young lovers on different sides of the debate, a mother who continues to keep her young comatose daughter alive, eschewing her own career as a great actress, and a drug addict who wants to end her life and the doctor who combats her attempts to do so. Despite the always magnificent performance of French actress Isabelle Hupert as the mother, and a fine turn by Maya Sansa as the drug addict, there are too many stories being told, and not enough depth in any of them, even though the shots are brilliantly composed. I just couldn't connect emotionally with these characters to ponder the ethical boundaries of the subject matter.

EAT SLEEP DIE (Sweden). Gabriela Pichler directed, wrote and co-edited this first feature that explores job loss in a factory town, as well as Swedish reaction to foreign workers/immigrants in their country. Viewed through the actions of young Raša (Nermina Lukač), whose father is from the Balkans, we get a glimpse of a changing Sweden, one that is rarely explored on film, and never from the standpoint of a Tom-boyish young woman, who wrestles, and has a very close, frank and loving relationship with her ailing father. Although the film is Swedish, the tone of it reminds me of early works by the Finnish Kaurismaki brothers, in the rich storytelling and depictions of the working class. Gabriela Pichler demonstrates a talent that, I sincerely hope, evolves into a long career in the film industry.

ENGLISH VINGLISH (India). There are better films at TIFF12, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed Gauri Shinde's first feature film starring Sridevi as Shashi an under-appreciated Indian mother of two, who, while awaiting her family to join her in the US for her niece's wedding, determindly sets out to learn English and boost her confidence. Romanced by a charming French student, who happens to appreciate food as much as Shashi loves making her incredible ladoos, Shinde's film is as sweet as the Indian confection, and harkens back to the days of Women's Films. This new director is also blessed to have an incredible lead actress, in the famous, Sridevi, whose beautiful brown eyes are so magnetic, and whose expressions are so vulnerably melting, that you can't help but root for her to succeed. The effervescent soundtrack does well in forwarding the simple plot of a woman's voyage in rediscovering her self and her self-worth, and while it's a bit too broad, this is a feel-good film made even more magical by the presence of Sridevi.

FIRST COMES LOVE (USA). I thought I knew what to expect from this documentary about a 40-something woman desperate to have a baby, but director and star, Nina Davenport is so open about her personal journey to single motherhood, that I was both delighted and surprised by its content: delighted because Davenport is so funny, her friends so New York (therapy sessions included), and surprised because of the inclusion of her mother's death and her father's conservative reaction to pregnancy and her career path as a filmmaker. Footage of Davenport's mother Trudy, who died during the filming, are touching and revealing of a woman who knew how to nurture and support all three of her children: her corporate and lawyer sons and her equally hardworking creative daughter. Besides motherhood, Davenport touches on issues of dating in the Big Apple, adult children who find themselves still seeking approval from their parents, and the lack of respect for people in the arts. I highly recommend this Doc. Not just a chick flick.

Toronto International Film Festival
September 6 - 16, 2012
Get Tickets:
416.599.TIFF | 1.888.599.8433
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