Reviews include Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Mr. Malcolm’s List, and Passengers of the Night.
TFCA Friday: Week of April 15
April 15, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
This Week in Movies!
All My Puny Sorrows (dir. Michael McGowan 🇨🇦)
“I love this movie like a person. It pierced my heart the way certain paintings or pieces of music do,” raves Johanna Schneller at The Globe and Mail. “And of course, the actors. Here’s another miracle that McGowan and his casting director, Heidi Levitt, manifested: Yoli, Elf and Lottie each need something, and Pill, Gadon and Winningham each has precisely that thing to give.”
“Every performance in the film is extraordinary – Gadon’s Elf’s refusal to show outward signs of weakness, Pill’s Yoli, and her ability to withstand. Mare Winningham’s great talent and authenticity are tender as is the profound humanity in all the characters,” agrees Anne Brodie at What She Said. “A transcendent experience that forgives and moves forward.”
“What All My Puny Sorrows does bring to Yoli and Elf’s life-or-death argument is mood. Flashbacks, rich, flowery dialogue, committed performances and a seemingly, cold barren landscape (North Bay filling in for rural Manitoba),” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “In the end, All My Puny Sorrows is an audacious film storytelling project, one that can’t help but fall short despite the effort. Life’s like that.”
“At the core of All My Puny Sorrows are the scenes between Alison Pill’s Yoli and Sarah Gadon’s Elf,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Loving, intelligent and committed to each other, the two sisters’ debates are searing and emotionally compelling. As played by Pill, Yoli is immensely charming but her ability to deal with society only reinforces her masquerade.”
“[I]t is frank and unsentimental in its look at depression and suicide,” notes Glenn Sumi at NOW Toronto. “But the dialogue, filled with literary allusions to everyone from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Thomas Aquinas to D.H. Lawrence and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who provided the book with its title), comes off as precious and reverential.”
“All My Puny Sorrows is a mature and beautiful story, the union of a celebrated author with a filmmaker in his creative prime,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s ultimately about the way grief sneaks up on us, the way death sneaks up on us and the way, sometimes, life and light sneak up on us. Try to be ready for those moments, it suggests. You can’t. But try.”
“The is one of the Best Canadian Films of the year, a surprise that it got overlooked by the Toronto Film Critics Association for Best Canadian Feature,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Choose or Die (dir. Toby Meakins)
“If Choose or Die sounds cheesy, it is but the scares are still plentiful, and quite nasty,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Delta Space Mission (dir. Mircea Toia and Călin Cazan; 1984 re-release)
“[A]n intriguing watch, an animation set on planets full of foreign stuff including weird colours, animated shapes and odd creatures in a strange setting,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (dir. David Yates)
“When I learned this week that China had demanded six seconds of edits to Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, just to fully excise the already blink-and-miss-it romance between Jude Law’s Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald (formerly Johnny Depp, newly incarnated in a bit of magical wand-wavery as Mads Mikkelsen) – well, I was upset,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “But I also couldn’t help but think: Well, that’s six seconds they don’t have to sit through.”
“[I]f cute was the selling point of this spin-off series, it’s practically out of stock in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, a movie that has traded in its charm (and, for the most part, its fantastic beasts) for an extended Nazi metaphor,” observes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Mads Mikkelsen, who plays [Grindelwald] here, arguably makes for a much better demagogue than Depp. With his imperious eyes, he resembles a taller Putin with hair.”
“The movies themselves have all been laboured, convoluted and mostly charmless, led by Eddie Redmayne’s cloying magizoologist, a wizard who shelters mystical creatures,” sighs Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “His name is Newt Scamander, which is something I have to be consistently reminded of on every return trip to Fantastic Beasts. Very little about these movies stick.”
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is fine, in its way, but I doubt that it will excite even long-time supporters,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “There are set pieces, the most brilliant of which is placed in a demonic prison, guarded by truly scary crustaceans and other creatures you might expect to encounter in a wet dark cave. Newt has to save Theseus and, as the film demonstrates, it ain’t easy.”
Islands (dir. Martin Edralin 🇨🇦)
“Sometimes, the smallest of movies can be radical,” declares Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Alternately buoyant and heartbreaking, Edralin’s film moves with the kind of carefully calibrated speed that is deeply impressive for a first-timer.”
“It’s what I call a vibe movie. Much like a Yasujirō Ozu film, Islands works best once you sit back, relax, and let its soulful cadences cleanse your soul,” observes Victor Stiff at That Shelf. “Edralin does an excellent job of using cinematic language to convey Joshua’s feelings of loneliness and despair. The film’s lack of camera movement offers a visual depiction of Joshua’s inertia. And in Edralin’s hands, even quiet moments speak volumes.”
“The film, by Filipino Canadian director Martin Edralin, evokes the 1955 film Marty, with Ernest Borgnine as a deeply shy middle-aged man living with his mother. But it also focuses on immigrants, people who are often over-qualified for their menial labour (Joshua was a dentist back home) specifically in the Filipino community, and the emotional weight of caregiving,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Edralin brings a carefully crafted, slow-cinema sensibility to the film, forcing the viewer feel the pressure of passing time, sometimes perhaps more than seems necessary.”
Paris, 13th District (dir. Jacques Audiard)
“One has to give director Audiard credit for making a compelling film about characters that his audience do not really care for,” admits Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco.
“As you might expect from Jacques Audiard, the film, which is shot in beautiful black and white, doesn’t obsess or lecture. Nor does it get heavy handed,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “On the contrary, the film has a very light tone. Still, he captures something truthful about modern life. His characters are at a point in their adult lives where they’re technically free to do as they please. But ideas about career, life, love and even identity are colliding with their own sense of disquiet.”
“The too-many-cooks scenario is maybe why the film feels confused about what it’s saying when it comes to modern relationships,” notes Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “There’s tension here between finding instant gratification when swiping right and working through the digital noise towards something more permanent and rewarding. That take feels too prudish and analog for this movie, which also finds its best scenes indulging in casual sex and its liberating joys.”
“Paris, 13th District, shot in soft black and white, marks a return to form for the director,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “Although the source material is several short comic-book stories by American cartoonist Adrian Tomine, the filmmaker has adapted them freely, setting them in the Paris left bank arrondissement that is home to the city’s Chinatown and the residential district Les Olympiades, which gives the film its French title.”
“Paris, 13th District is a kindred spirit to Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World,” notes Patrick Mullen at That Shelf. “It’s energising to see another portrait of contemporary life where people look forward, rather than back. Much like Julie’s run through Oslo, the bursts with which Emilie, Camille, and Nora course through Paris leave one feeling refreshingly alive.”
Rookie Season (dir. Adrian Bonvento)
“Director Bonvento has created a tense and exciting racing documentary capturing all the glory and woes of the sport,” revs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The doc is concise and effective running at less than 90 minutes.”
Spiritwalker (dir. Yoon Jae-geun)
“[T]his isn’t a high tech production, or a high budget affair, and so there are some problems: a few uneven points in the plot, funky art direction, and clumsy moments on the part of some of the actors and the director,’ admits Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Although, you can admire the effort that Yoon has taken in putting this complex story together, it’s likely more of interest to fans of the martial arts genre, than a general audience.”
White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (dir. Alison Klayman; Apr. 19)
“While White Hot admittedly feels a bit off the rack with its talking heads style, the familiarity adds a meta factor,” writes Patrick Mullen at POV Magazine. “This format mixed with energetic graphics and inserts aligns with the Netflix house style. The streamer, like A&F, has its model for success.”
Canadian Screens, Cronenberg at Cannes, Celebrity Chefs!
Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail reports on the “slap free” Canadian Screen Awards gala that was “was short, sweet and extraordinarily Canadian in its earnestness.” He highlights the good, the bad, and the weird of the night, with winner Scarborough capping off the positive notes: “If there is a more heartening and inspiring Canadian film success story than the production of Scarborough, I would love to hear it.”
At POV Magazine, Patrick Mullen looks at three controversies after Barry Avrich’s CSA acceptance speech comment that it doesn’t matter who tells Black stories just as Michelle Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian returned as if the controversy surrounding Latimer’s identity never happened, and numbers at BC’s Knowledge Network reveal appalling racial disparities. “Perhaps before even tackling the story, one should return to Avrich’s awards speech: just because one can tell a story doesn’t mean one should,” writes Mullen. “Having a platform means using it responsibly. Sometimes that means stepping back or, better yet, bringing another perspective into the fold to tell the story authentically.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz looks from crimes of the past to Crimes of the Future. Following news that David Cronenberg’s latest film would debut at Cannes, Hertz tells all you need to know about the edgy drama: “Already, industry word-of-mouth is strong on Crimes of the Future, with the film being compared to Cronenberg’s provocative Crash, which shocked and awed Cannes 26 years ago, when it won the festival’s Special Jury Prize, an award delivered for ‘originality, for daring and for audacity.’”
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell breaks down the Cannes line-up and agrees that Crimes of the Future is a competition highlight. But a Canadian also headlines the list of surprise omissions, since David Lynch never had secret film to begin with: “MIA, at least for the moment, is Women Talking, a drama of female empowerment by Canada’s Sarah Polley that stars Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Ben Whishaw,” writes Howell. “Considered a Palme comp prospect, it’s possible that Women Talking is instead being held for the fall fest circuit, including TIFF. Polley’s film could still land a Cannes premiere, as the Official Selection expands and sidebar sections Directors’ Fortnight and International Critics’ Week announce their films in the days ahead.”
At POV Magazine, Karen Gordon tucks in with a deep dish on celebrity chef docs like Julia, Roadrunner, Searching for Italy, and Wolfgang to explore our relationship with food and film. “We still don’t eat the way the French do, for the most part,” writes Gordon. “But the influence of these chefs and the way they’ve used their media has changed the game in North America. A lot more of us are thinking about what we eat, who we buy from, and what it all means to us. I think Julia Child would be pleased.”
TV Talk – Women Roar
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson chats with Hugh Laurie about adapting Agatha Christie for the mini-series Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, “I always thought the novel had a kind of comic spirit to it,” Laurie tells Atkinson. “It’s got a sort of American bounce to it and a comic spirit, which I absolutely adored in The Thin Man too.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie tips her hat to Outer Range, saying the series “offers a completely new take on the family story and the western, blending philosophy, religion, the sacred and profane, psychological horror, ancient and new tribalism, with an occasional nod to the Greek god Kronos.” As for The First Lady, the show has great performances. “It’s going to be a bumpy and illuminating ride, as far as we know it to be even partly true, so buckle up,” notes Brodie. A stronger look at women’s lives seems to appear in Roar, with Nicole Kidman’s episode receiving singular praise: “Kidman’s dealing with a lot and suddenly reaches for an old family photo and eats it, she is flooded with wonderful, visceral memories of happier times, family at the beach, cooking, dancing, the parrots in the trees.” Anatomy of a Scandal, meanwhile, is “pretty salacious stuff” but “well written, witty, terse, precise.” Single Drunk Female is “fun, witty and entertaining, thanks to Black-D’Elia’s finely tuned performance,” while Deceit is “an extremely shocking story.” As for The Kardashians, well, Brodie writes: “The self-absorption is astonishing.”
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller chats with the women behind Roar, including star Cynthia Erivo and showrunner Liz Flahive, about creating space for women’s stories. “‘Sometimes people talk about so-called female shows existing only from here to here,’ Flahive says, gesturing to her heart and head, ‘because it’s all feelings and dialogue. We love playing to the rafters, and having intimate scenes right up against over-the-top ones. I don’t mind making you uncomfortable, if it means you don’t get complacent.’”