Sunday 16 September 2018

THE FIREFLIES ARE GONE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Sébastien Pilote Scores Again

The Fireflies are Gone (2018)
Dir. Sébastien Pilote
Starring: Kapelle Tremblay, Pierre-Luc Brillant

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who is Sébastien Pilote? Seriously, who in the hell is this guy, anyway? These were the questions I asked myself upon seeing Quebec-based Canadian filmmaker Sébastien Pilote's extraordinary first feature film Le Vendeur. This stunning Québec-made kitchen-sink drama was so raw, real and infused with a seldom-paralleled acute pain that the film's quiet power betrayed its creator's cinematic genius immediately.
Starring the magnificent Gilberte Sicotte as an ace car salesman in a small factory town in Québec on the brink of total financial collapse, this staggeringly powerful, exquisitely-acted and beautifully written motion picture was, for me, the first genuine Québec heir apparent to the beautiful-yet-not-so-beautiful-loser genre of English-Canadian cinema of the 60s and 70s (best exemplified by films like Don Shebib's Goin' Down the Road, Peter Pearson's Paperback Hero and Zale Dalen's Skip Tracer).
As if making a modern masterpiece of Québec cinema as a first feature wasn't enough, he’d knocked one out of the park before that with his early short film DUST BOWL HA! HA!  It featured Andre Bouchard as a hard-working family man in small-town Québec who stoically maintains his dignity in a world where nothing and nobody escapes the crushing weight of the financial crisis. This turned out to be one of the best short films I had ever seen – period – a phenomenal drama, so graceful and so simple, that upon seeing it I felt about as winded as I did after I first saw Le Vendeur.
With his second feature Le démantèlement, I had MORE reason to ask, just who in the hell is this guy anyway?
Starring the legendary Gabriel Arcand as a Québec sheep farmer forced into selling off his beloved home and livelihood to help his daughter was a movie that extraordinarily blended a neo-realist sensibility in a great, thought-provoking drama that was visually astonishing – gorgeously captured by cinematographer Michel La Veaux in a classical tradition not unlike that of the late Haskell Wexler's heartbreakingly beautiful work in Bound For Glory.
And then, his third feature film, The Fireflies Are Gone came along. Wow! He’s the real thing! No doubt about it.
Amusingly, when Mr. Pilote invited me to the Canadian premiere of his film, he expressed considerable trepidation. He was worried I wouldn’t like his third feature because it was such a departure from his previous work. His concerns were unfounded. I loved it so much that I saw it twice at TIFF.
I urge everyone to see it.
First of all, it bears many hallmarks of what makes Pilote’s films special: it’s set in small town Québec, it blends neo-realist qualities with classical filmmaking and is finally infused with moments of humanity that are so indelible that it leaves one deeply moved. Where it departs is that the central character is female and that the movie displays considerable charm and humour.
The characters in Pilote’s previous features were nearing the end of their “productive” lives, but not so here. Léonie (Karelle Tremblay) can hardly wait for high school to end and actually begin her life as an adult. Existence in this small Saguenay town is stifling, but she finds solace in her friendship with the much older Steve (Pierre Luc-Brilliant), a guitar teacher who lives in a suburban basement with his mother.
The two of them while away their time playing music together, wandering the empty streets and hanging out eating poutine in a local greasy spoon, but alas, Léonie is restless. She’s also not getting along with her Mom (and Mom’s new-ish husband) and though she enjoys visiting with her estranged Dad, he too does little to fill the void in her life.
Much is made of how the fireflies in the town have disappeared due to the factories belching out pollution, but it’s not just industrialization that has decimated this once beautiful rural paradise, but small mindedness. Léonie, like those fireflies might have to leave, but if she does, will her light ever be replaced?
It’s an eternal question and one that Pilote posits brilliantly in his gorgeous, magical movie. 


The Fireflies are Gone is a Contemporary World Cinema presentation at TIFF 2018.

Thursday 13 September 2018

GLITTER'S WILD WOMEN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Women Making Movies

A film festival with no viewers? It's the wilderness out there.
Glitter's Wild Women (2018)
Dir. Roney
Starring: Grace Glowicki, Cotey Pope

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Suppose you make a movie. Well, obviously you want people to see it and maybe, just maybe, you decide to launch the film by hosting your very own film festival. You make your own flyers, post them around, set up a makeshift theatre in your front yard and then, wait for the crowds to pour in.

This is, in a nutshell, what the two young women (Grace Glowicki, Cotey Pope) at the centre of Roney's debut film do. It is, however, a bit more complicated than that. Their lives and, by extension Roney's film itself become infused with magic. Inspiration is all around them, to be sure. They live in an isolated country house surrounded by peace and natural beauty. They spend inordinate amounts of time watching 70s movies with tough, kick-butt female heroines, they drive along the empty highways and byways of the rural municipality they find themselves in, emulating the poses and dialogue of the movies, but using that inspiration as a springboard for their own imaginations.

And of course, they harvest the mysterious glitter infusing their bucolic surroundings. Glitter, you see, especially in the world of magic realism (which Roney's film has in spades) has oh-so mysterious ways. However, magic will only get you so far and these two women have a lot more going for them. They mine the gold with sheer determination.

This is one fine debut. The Vancouver-born Roney, who studied at Ryerson University, displays an assured hand behind the camera. She guides this tale with a talent that seems natural. She feels like someone with filmmaking hard-wired into her DNA. Her compositions are rich, she has a natural propensity for hitting the proper dramatic beats to drive the film forward (with plenty of cinematic poetry) and she elicits fine performances from her two leads.

There is, as it turns out, a strange melancholy to the fun proceedings. These women, these friends, these artists, are working in the wilderness and I can't help but think of the patriarchal nature of the film industry itself. They're on their own and it shouldn't have to be that way. So while Glitter's Wild Women offers plenty of entertainment value, it also delivers plenty of food for thought.

As it should be, really.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***1/2 Three and a Half Stars

Glitter's Wild Women premieres in the Short Cuts program at TIFF 2018.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

ENDZEIT (Ever After) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Original Zombie Apocalypse Film

All female filmmakers yield original zombie apocalypse.

Endzeit - Ever After (2018)
Dir. Carolina Hellsgård
Scr. Olivia Vieweg
Starring: Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Maja Lehrer, Trine Dyrholm

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A plague has descended upon the Earth and as per usual, the zombies outnumber the living. Only two plague-free cities exist, in Germany, of course. They stand alone as fortresses against the hordes of slavering, flesh-eating creatures. Life within in them is, however, anything but normal. The citizens must slave constantly to keep the zombies out and every so often, if someone working along the fences isn't careful, the claws and jaws of a monster reach through to tear out a chunk or two of living flesh. Inevitably, the victim must be dispensed with - a bullet or blow to the head or, on occasion, a simple decapitation is the only solution.

And life, such as it is, goes on.

Sound familiar so far? Sure, why not? We've seen movie upon movie with similar situations and themes, but happily, Endzeit (Ever After) is unlike any of them. In fact, this is one of the most original apocalyptic zombie movies ever made.

Our story begins in the city of Weimar where young Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) spends her days in a huge old house, reflecting upon the tragedies which befell her family. Eventually, she finds herself outside on the perimeters of the city, assisting other plague survivors to reinforce the walls. Here she meets the tough-minded Eva (Maja Lehrer) and the two of them eventually escape Weimar together aboard an unmanned supply train headed for the city of Jena which, word has it, might provide more hope and humanity. Opposites not only attract, but compliment each other perfectly. When the train breaks down, the two women must wend their way across the harsh dangerous landscape on foot.

Yes, there are the usual challenges - bloodthirsty zombies at every turn - but eventually, they face something altogether new and mysterious. This is where Endzeit creeps into territory of the most original kind. Not only is emphasis placed on their burgeoning friendship and growing love, but it's what they discover that plunges the film into miraculously fresh territory. Nature, you see, has its own plans for the world and it is this biological shift that's truly surprising.

Surprise is the key word here - not in any typical genre film fashion. In spite of the traditional apocalyptic coat hanger with which the film adorns itself with all manner of deep philosophical rumination, we find ourselves always compelled to stay with these women on their journey in what proves to be a very brave, bold new world.

Olivia Vieweg's rich screenplay, based upon her graphic novel, takes us on roads seldom travelled in horror films and Carolina Hellsgård's direction manages to keep the forward thrust of the narrative taut whilst allowing for plenty of deep, slow-burn atmosphere. (And make no mistake, the slow-burn eventually yields an absolutely terrifying and thrilling series of climactic moments that elicit plenty of nail biting.)

Endzeit is creepy and scary, but it's also deeply and profoundly moving. One hesitates to reveal to much more. My own viewing was blessed by knowing very little about the film and the ride it took me on was equally dazzling and thought-provoking.

As the end credits unspooled, I discovered that every major key creative element of this zombie film was created by women. I'd still like to think that this is a work created by film artists of the highest order, no matter what their gender. However, another part of me thinks that women can and do see the world differently and in the case of a post-apocalyptic zombie movie, they have yielded a film that focuses upon that which truly haunts humanity in times of great tragedy - how our own actions to maintain survival at any cost creates that which haunts us the most - the ghosts and memories of those left to die. Finally, Endzeit is a horror film that is happy to scare us, but does so by being less interested in viscera and far more concerned with regeneration and love.

This is a good thing, a very good thing and I, for one, want to see more of this in the movies.


Endzeit - Ever After has its World Premiere in the TIFF 2018 Discovery Series.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

BEN IS BACK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Addiction Drama With Thriller Elements

Ben is Back (2018)
Dir. Peter Hedges
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It's interesting that there are two major American films this year (in addition to a number of foreign language entries) playing at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that deal with the subject of drug addiction amongst adolescents. Clearly this is an epidemic world wide and obsessing our filmmakers. Given the power of cinema and its unyielding nature as an art form, this is a year that historically we will look back upon, not just from a standpoint of film history, but history period.

Ben is Back is an original screenplay by director (Dan in Real Life, The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and novelist (What's Eating Gilbert Grape) Peter Hedges. The film it most resembles is Felix Van Groeningen's Beautiful Boy (also at TIFF 2018). That film involves a father and son struggling through the child's drug addiction. Here, the film focuses upon a mother and her son struggling through the child's drug addiction. That both are major and relatively mainstream American films both at TIFF 2018 is not without interest. One is, however, clearly superior to the other. It's not Ben is Back.

It should be said, though, that Hedges' film is not without considerable merit. That it lacks the pedigree of Van Groeningen's film being based upon not one, but two, true-life memoirs is not its central flaw. The writing Hedges crafts is often complex and intelligent and is indeed flavoured with touches that seem "real". Not surprisingly, it has "novelistic" properties in terms of its structure and I admired that it tries things we don't often see in most contemporary films. However, some of what it "tries" is not always successful.

Ben is Back unfurls a narrative set within a 24-hour period (I loved this macrocosmic aspect of the storytelling) in which a teenage drug addict (opioids), played by Hedges' real-life son, actor Lucas Hedges, returns home from rehab for a one-day holiday reprieve with his family. His mother (quite dazzlingly portrayed by Julia Roberts) is thrilled to see him, in spite of the pain he's caused to both himself and the family. He presents the picture of a young man well on his way to recovery. Doubts however remain and continue to creep into the proceedings. When a break-in occurs in the family home while they're all attending a Christmas concert, this results in the disappearance/pet-napping of the family's dog. Ben is convinced the dog has been snatched by one of several scuzzball drug dealers from his past. He and his Mother, together and separately, begin a suspenseful odyssey into the underbelly of the illicit drug world.

An easy, somewhat flippant, but not altogether inaccurate description of Ben is Back might be: "Beautiful Boy with thriller elements". These thriller elements are handled with plenty of directorial prowess and though the journey that mother and son take together is not without interest or merit, we are, during the second half of the film, occasionally taken out of the "addiction" story and faced with the realization that we're watching a movie about people trying to find their stolen dog. I do not wish to criticize this story element - it's bold, brash and original. Alas, it occasionally FEELS like an obvious conceit and as such, we become too aware of the "mechanics" of the film. This does indeed take us out of the narrative thrust.

Happily, the performances in the movie are first rate and in spite of the weird flaw in structure/delivery, the movie is so much more original and compelling than most contemporary American films. Perhaps I doth protest too much, but in comparison to Van Groeningen's film, or, for that matter Baldvin Z's utterly astounding Let Me Fall, it pales slightly in comparison.

It's wonderful seeing Julia Roberts work her magic in this film. She really is a great actress. One chillingly happy moment has her trashing a scumbag doctor who got her son hooked on pain medication. Her victory is petty, but damn, it's still satisfying.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-one-half Stars

Ben is Back is a TIFF 2018 Special Presentation.

Monday 10 September 2018

A STAR IS BORN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Horrid, Unnecessary Remake of Classic Tale

A Star is Born (2018)
Dir. Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I have absolutely no problem with remakes. Taking a great story and creating a new adaptation within a different cultural/societal context can yield considerable fruit. A Star is Born has several terrific incarnations. It also has a couple of abominable ones.

It all began in 1932 with George Cukor's marvelous What Price Hollywood? in which a waitress (Constance Bennett) is swept off her feet and turned into a star by an alcoholic film director (Lowell Sherman) who eventually commits suicide after shaming himself, and by extension, the woman he loves.

Producer David O. Selznick though, finally perfected the story in 1937's A Star is Born when the script, co-written by Dorothy Parker and directed by William A. Wellman, paired a big movie star on his way down (Frederic March) with a burgeoning actress (Janet Gaynor). They fall in love naturally and the fading star turns Gaynor into a huge star, but his battles with booze eventually create a situation wherein he realizes that he is dragging down the woman he loves. He commits suicide, not so much out of self-pity (though there's considerable self-loathing on his part) and his death is a sacrifice to "save" the career and life of the woman he loves. The movie is just about perfect and is still one of the most vivid portraits of the Hollywood studio system ever made.

1954, however, brought the greatest version of the film to life when George Cukor returned to the story he first made in 1932. Here he paired James Mason as Norman Maine, a big movie star in serious decline who meets aspiring singer/actress Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland), makes her a star and eventually, sacrifices himself via suicide when his alcoholism not only drags him down, but threatens to destroy the woman he loves. Oh, this version is wonderful! It doesn't get better than Judy Garland and James Mason and Cukor at the peak of his powers.

Alas, 1976 brought us the Frank Pierson-directed abomination starring Kris Kristofferson, a boozing rock star who meets Barbara Streisand, a burgeoning singer. Same deal. They fall in love, he makes her a star, and eventually he dies. The problem with the story is that there's no sacrifice. He gets boozed up and dies in a car accident. That's not the only problem, though. The movie is miserably written, virtually non-directed and little more than a showcase for Streisand. The picture stinks to high heaven.

Though Bradley Cooper's 2018 version of A Star is Born pretty much stinks, it's a masterpiece compared to the dreadful 1976 version. Director Cooper plays an alkie rock star who meets the execrable Lady Gaga, falls in love with her, makes her a star and eventually commits suicide in an act of sacrifice.

This new version of the film does offer a decent performance from director Cooper, but his skills as a director are woeful. Most of the movie is shot in dull closeups and not even the musical numbers have a sense of scope or sweep to them. Lady Gaga is a supremely mediocre actress and it's almost impossible to listen to her thudding dull monotonous line readings. Even worse is the music in the film. It's so mediocre, I'd not even dare to call it music. (At least the horrendous 1976 version had genuine songs written by real songwriters like Paul Williams.)

How anyone could even begin to enjoy this new version of the film is beyond me. It's incompetently directed, has a dreadful score and a complete washout in female lead Lady Gaga.

Look, there are three great versions of this story. Do yourself a favour and watch them instead. And if truth be told, the soundtrack for the awful 1976 version offers some decent tunes worth listening to (as opposed to Cooper's growling and Gaga's caterwauling).


A Star is Born is a TIFF 2018 Gala Presentation.

Sunday 9 September 2018

FIRST MAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Lame Space Race Picture

First Man (2018)
Dir. Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you're going to make a true-life dramatic recreation of a piece of space exploration history, wouldn't it make some sense to ask yourself, "How am I going to create a film that is at least as good as Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff?"

The classic 1983 epic about the early days of space travel, based on Tom Wolfe's bestseller of the same name, focused on test pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) and the astronauts who comprised the Project Mercury team (including stars Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Scott Glenn, Fred Ward and Lance Henriksen) and led the world into space travel. Kaufman's film is a dazzler - groundbreaking special effects, brilliant satire, thrilling personal/professional drama, swirling romanticism and, much like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, is one of the few films that actually gives us a sense of what space travel must really be like. There's nothing quite like it.

First Man by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) focuses upon Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), the first human being to actually set foot on the moon in 1969. Written by the normally talented screenwriter John Singer (Spotlight) and based on the James R. Hansen book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, this is a screenplay that plods along with cliches - focusing, almost by-rote on TV-movie-like family drama, de rigueur preparation and training and the eventual journey and moon landing.

The whole movie feels like a been-there-done-that affair. It doesn't help that we have to stare at the supremely overrated, dewy-eyed, annoyingly soulful and humourless hunk Ryan Gosling.

Even worse are the endless jittery closeups used to replicate the actual space travel. Yes, I'm sure the litany of technical/science experts provided insight for Chazelle to create this mise en scene, but given the cinematic brilliance employed by Kaufman in his film (never mind Kubrick), this cliched shaky-cam approach is all sizzle, but no steak.

The movie feels dead. Even the sequences involving Armstrong's first steps upon the moon surface have a kind of blah "quality" to them. There's no oomph or dramatic/emotional resonance to any of it.

It was hard slogging through this movie with memories of The Right Stuff dancing through my head. Not that I wanted the usually original Chazelle to approach the material in any sort of derivative fashion, but again, I reiterate: the bar for space travel movies was set so high by Kaufman that it flummoxes me that Chazelle chose such a dull approach to the material. When I think of the verve and excitement he demonstrated with the astonishing Whiplash, I expected so much more than something that feels so dull and familiar.

And here's something I never thought I'd find myself saying, but why, oh why does the film place absolutely no emphasis upon the planting of the American Flag on the surface of the moon? Yes, the flag is there. We see it clearly as Armstrong goes through his routines on the lunar surface, but given the importance of this flight to both the government and people of the United States, how can we not get a glorious moment where the flag is planted?

I'm sure this was an intentional omission on the part of Chazelle and his writer. God knows they wouldn't want to sully themselves with anything that might seem vaguely propagandistic. But you know what? This might have been one of many things to give this movie some life. Too much emphasis is placed on a kind of "documentary"-like approach.

But damn! This is a movie! It should be BIGGER than life, not smaller than one of America's most astounding historical achievements.


First Man is a TIFF 2018 Gala Presentation

Saturday 8 September 2018

BLIND SPOT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Real Time Devastation from Norway

A parent's worst nightmare comes to life in real time.

Blind Spot (2018)
Dir. Tuva Novotny
Starring: Pia Tjelta, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Nora Mathea Øien

Review By Greg Klymkiw
One trick pony movies, those pictures built upon a "gimmick" of execution (Christopher "One Idea" Nolan's 2000 neo-noir Memento, with its lugubrious, humourless "let's tell the story backwards" approach being the most egregious example for me) are seldom works that can live beyond their silly little stunts. Alexander Sokurov's impressive one-take 2002 feature Russian Ark, however, lives well beyond its clever conceit and yields considerable richness on repeated viewings (unlike the aforementioned Memento which gets more infuriating with subsequent helpings).

Actress Tuva Novotny's debut feature Blind Spot is certainly a dazzling feat of technical wizardry, but its emotional core is so solid that the real time with which the story unfolds never feels like a masturbatory imposture, but a valid dramatic approach to a narrative that is, to use a perfectly apt cliché, every parent's worst nightmare. The film wends its way through events in the life of a Norwegian family in a 102-minute running time that takes us, second by second on a journey that is always harrowing.

The story begins with a fixed camera upon a high school gym class and we watch as a group of young women go through their rigorous activities. Soon enough we settle on Tea (Nora Mathea Øien) as she and a friend make their way into the change room, go about the business of towelling-off, showering, changing etc. and eventually walk out together into the hallways of the school. The friends walk home, casually and naturally talking about the day's events, homework and focusing primarily on an upcoming mathematics assignment. They eventually part and it's here where I realized that there has yet to be a single cut.

The long take continues. We follow Tea as she walks up several flights of stairs to her family's flat. Once inside, we observe her mother Maria (Pia Tjelta in an intense, bravura performance) rushing about with Tea's little brother. The teenager leaves a friendly voicemail for her father Anders (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), jots an entry in her journal and eventually, leaves the frame.

And then, off-camera, IT happens.

Novotny's mise-en-scene creates a sense of portent throughout. We know something is going to happen and we sense it's not going to be good. Yet, when it does happen, we are as much in the dark as Maria until she discovers the unthinkable. From this point we experience the mother's desperation, the long wait for an ambulance, the trip to a nearby hospital (though it never feels "nearby" enough). The long take never lets up, but it is to the film's credit that we're ultimately more focused on the drama rather than the conceit.

Once in the hospital we follow the events as they would naturally unfold, the POV focusing on characters such as a compassionate nurse, the emergency room team leader and the family. Novotny's deft screenplay parcels out information which naturally provides context for the tragic events, but most astoundingly, creates a realistic dramatic arc for the 102 minutes that doesn't in any way, shape or form give us false closure nor, like life, does it provide any easy, pat answers.

Life is drama and Blind Spot brilliantly proves this.


Blind Spot has its International Premiere in the Discovery Series at TIFF 2018.

Friday 7 September 2018

BEAUTIFUL BOY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2018 - Devastating Addiction Drama

Beautiful Boy (2018)
Dir. Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There is a long history of films dealing with the illness of drug addiction. The best work tends to avoid earnestness and some of my favourites either capture the hallucinogenic properties of the disease itself (Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas might be the ultimate in this respect) or dramatically (or even melodramatically) chart the sufferings of those afflicted in a realistic (or Neo-realistic) fashion (Jerry Schatzberg's The Panic in Needle Park, Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy and Otto Preminger's The Man With The Golden Arm all chart "realism" most effectively, and affectingly). A bonus is when the films can do both as in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For a Dream and Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy.

A great new film manages to do both, but not in ways one might expect. With the almost unbearably harrowing Beautiful Boy, Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown) makes his English language debut with this film adaptation of two published non-fiction accounts of addiction that each provide perspectives from the "outsider" looking in and the "insider" looking out. Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff have been expertly adapted into a screenplay written by Luke Davies and Van Groeningen.

Telling the story of New York Times journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell) and his relationship with teenage son Nicholas (Timothée Chalamet), Beautiful Boy charts the journey of both men through a grim and gripping rollercoaster ride through crystal meth addiction (in addition to copious ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana use). We begin with the boy's disappearance and his eventual return into his Dad's home, clearly under the influence of drug use. Nicholas agrees to a stay in a rehab clinic, but once he is released to a halfway house, the young boy's abuse of drugs increases exponentially. We proceed through a harrowing, almost cat-and-mouse game of parental care, the child's acquiescence and continual downfall. Eventually, tough-love must come into play.

Anyone who has experienced and/or witnessed the addiction of someone close will relate to this film, however, the picture's ultimate power is that it moves well beyond simple recognition and is ultimately a story of father-son love. Carrell and Chalamet deliver alternately grim and sensitive performances. Chalamet in particular captures the jittery telltale signs of meth addiction and the script beautifully charts the behaviour and mindset of addiction as it continually takes grip upon the boy's psyche.

Beautiful Boy never offers pat answers or explanations. That might be its ultimate power. It also is set with the world of a fairly affluent family unit. Some might find this a tad disingenuous, but frankly, addiction goes so far beyond class lines. It can happen to anyone, anytime and that the story is told against a bourgeois backdrop hammers home just how horrible a disease addiction is. In fact, one wonders, both during and after, about its effects upon all those afflicted with it no matter what their class or station.

And of course, it's impossible to ignore the fact that the film's title is derived from the song "Beautiful Boy", John Lennon's soulful, loving, and within the context of this film (and an element of the story itself), absolutely heartbreaking melody and lyrics.

Among the evocative lyrics in the song, one resonates both during and long after the film is over: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Oh indeed. Life happens and sometimes the best laid plans either get in the way or are unattainable. Love, understanding and perseverance go a long way, but with the disease of addiction, there are never, ever any guarantees.

The Film Corner Rating: ***** 5-Stars

Beautiful Boy is a TIFF 2018 Gala Presentation.

Thursday 6 September 2018

LET ME FALL (Lof mer ad falla) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Great new Baldvin Z @ TIFF 2018

The love, pain and confusion of teen years lasts a lifetime.

Let Me Fall - Lof mer ad falla (2018)
Dir. Baldvin Z (Zophoníasson)
Scr. Birgir Örn Steinarsson, Baldvin Z
Starring: Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir, Eyrún Björk Jakobsdóttir, Kristín þóra Haraldsdóttir, Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir, Þorsteinn Bachmann

Review By Greg Klymkiw

And it ain’t gonna rain anymore
Now my baby’s gone
And it ain’t gonna rain anymore
Now my baby’s gone

Now the storm has passed over me
I’m left to drift on a dead calm sea
And watch her forever through the cracks in the beams
Nailed across the doorways of the bedrooms of my dreams

- Nick Cave "Ain't Gonna Rain Anymore" (covered in the film by Zoe-Ruth Erwin)

High school student Magnea (Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir) is armed with a wad of cash she's secured up-front from a burly, bearded miscreant looking for jailbait sex in his suburban Reykjavik home (adorned, no less, with photos of his wife and kids). She has no intention of delivering the foul goods he's after. She produces a blood-filled hypodermic needle and threatens to stick the sweaty corpulent pig if he doesn't let her leave untouched.

After beating a hasty retreat with her collaborators-in-duping-pathetic-slobs, Magnea sits in the back seat with her best friend Stella (Eyrún Björk Jakobsdóttir) and their pimp-like beau in front. As the opening credits for Let Me Fall unspool, the camera holds close on Magnea's face as she stares out the window of the fast-moving car. To the casual observer, her face might seem blank, but as the lens remains fixed upon her visage, it's a picture that tells a story of deep pain, pain that's going to become more acute as the next 136-minutes of the new film by the gifted director Baldvin Z unfolds.

Based on interviews with the families of drug-addicted teens, the screenplay by Birgir Örn Steinarsson and Baldvin Z, yields one of the most shocking, compelling and profoundly moving films ever made about addiction. It's a story that spans from late childhood to young adulthood (the older Magnea and Stella are respectively played by Kristín þóra Haraldsdóttir and Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir), charting a friendship rooted in love, co-dependency and finally, the sort of betrayal that enslavement to the needle can lead to, a betrayal that changes the lives of both women forever - horrifyingly and sadly irrevocable.

The four actresses playing these two women over several decades provide work that is nothing less than stellar. Running the gamut of emotions and actions, this is extraordinary work. As presented in the film, the friendship between Magnea and Stella is so rich and complex. Though Magnea feels like a "follower" to the "tutelage" of Stella, one eventually gets a sense that Magnea is, indeed the stronger force and as such, this is what leaves her open and vulnerable to both Stella's base needs to fulfil her own addiction and, in a sense, her desire to have an upper hand. This all said, love and friendships are never simple and the power dynamic between the two women is handled so deftly and intelligently - like all great drama, we are constantly surprised by the roads the characters travel - together and individually.

And yes, though the film focuses primarily on these two young women, it also touches upon the struggles endured by Magnea's parents and in particular her loving father (Þorsteinn Bachmann). At first shocked that his academically gifted daughter succumbs to behaviour that hardly seems commensurate with her huge potential, he attempts to provide as much love and support as he can. Addiction, however, proves to be a greater lure than parental love. Some of the most wrenching, heartbreaking scenes in the film come from Bachmann's performance, the quiet sadness on his face, the desperation in his eyes and eventually, the explosive anger he emits when confronting a man who has sexually enslaved his daughter. At one one in the film, when the Father comes to the realization that there is nothing more he can do, it's impossible not to be moved to tears by Bachmann's performance.

Then again, it's impossible not to be moved to tears throughout the entire film. From the opening shots of Magnea's youthful face, so full of portent, to the final images of her older, drug-ravaged face as we hear Zoe-Ruth Erwin's evocative cover of Nick Cave's "Ain't Gonna Rain Anymore", this is a film that never flinches, never hides from the veracity of life. Let Me Fall is a rollercoaster ride of despair, desperation and deceit. It's about avoiding hard truth and then, once facing the truth, not even knowing what it is anymore.

This is a great movie! Baldwin Z's direction is masterful and uncompromising. As a sidenote, I watched the movie with my 17-year-old daughter. She was utterly transfixed and when it was over, she declared: "Dad, I've never seen a movie about kids like this in my whole life that was so true." For me, I can think of no higher praise.


Let Me Fall (Lof mer ad falla) has its World Premiere at TIFF 2018