TFCA Friday: Week of August 9th, 2019

August 9, 2019

Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA critics.

Opening this Week

The Art of Racing in the Rain (dir. Simon Curtis)

Perhaps in an uncertain world full of shifting loyalties, it’s nice to know your pet has got your back. And it doesn’t have to sing Hakuna Matata to prove it” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

Won’t disappoint anyone with basic expectations of a dog movie. It’s full of aww, if not wonder” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

It’s unabashedly hokey, Hallmark-level melodrama, but if forced to pick one film from the doggie pile of such weepies, I wouldn’t hesitate in choosing this one” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (dir. James Bobin)

In spite of some glaring and obvious faults, [this] proves to be a reasonably enjoyable film thanks to Moner’s consistently loveable leading turn” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The Kitchen (dir. Andrea Berloff)

A noir crime thriller with so many aspirations it ends up rattling around drunkenly, uncertain where to begin” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Instead of wasting your money on seeing The Kitchen, spend it on the soundtrack so you can just enjoy the music” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Has all the right ingredients for a solid late-summer thriller: a great cast, a promising filmmaker and a rock-solid spin on the gangster picture. And yet, for all the effort that’s clearly gone into it, it just sits there. It doesn’t work at all. Somehow it’s just a waste of everybody’s time” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Based on a comic book series which means that it should not be taken too seriously — but it does” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Light of My Life (dir. Casey Affleck)

The quiet, sombre mood of the film invites all kinds of reflections from viewers… It makes for a great story, well told” — Chris Knight, The National Post

It’s a simple, effective concept, but Affleck doesn’t really develop it; the movie’s world, mostly created on location in rural British Columbia, looks convincingly desolate, but no one’s thought too much about what it would be like to live there” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Predictable, uninspired, and stretched as thin as it could possible go… takes forever to go absolutely nowhere interesting” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Luce (dir. Julius Onah)

Calls into question the pat statements and rushed judgments that so often pass for social discourse in the modern world. Is the light we see guiding the path ahead or indicating a train speeding toward us?” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The setup is manipulative, but terrific performances from Spencer and Watts keep things engaging and worthwhile. Both women circle Luce and each other in a weighted confrontation between mother and teacher; empathy and responsibility; white saviour and Black history” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

A major work of contemporary American cinema: complex, beguiling, and full of meaty discussion points that will challenge audiences throughout 2019 and beyond” — Jake Howell, The Film Stage

On the surface, Luce is a study of race and privilege in contemporary America. But it’s more broadly and more subtly about family relationships and the psychological deals we make with others and ourselves” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

It’s a stellar encapsulation of the divisive nature of the world today, but also an unquestionably well made film that doesn’t rest solely on the importance and timeliness of its messages” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The most satisfying element of the film is the way the story and characters grab the audience from the start and never let go” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Another twist on the familiar Bad Seed story that telegraphs and drags, served with cheese” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Mike Wallace is Here (dir. Avi Belkin)

Less a biographical documentary than an editorial collage of its subject’s life, as director Avi Belkin shuttles through Wallace’s life and career” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The doc isn’t a complete portrait of the man and it doesn’t tell the complete story, but the novel fossil display affords a sense of Wallace’s defining characteristics and the traits that made his interviews so memorable” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

A superior doc on a man we desperately need today” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Though the film doesn’t break new ground — Wallace is the author of two memoirs as well as the subject of a biography and many interviews — Belkin’s documentary is certainly worth watching for the parade of Wallace’s interview subjects” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s meant to be asking the questions. Wallace was a famously combative interlocutor, and sometimes his subjects snap back with the same ferocity” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A likeable (and insightful) documentary on a very unlikeable man” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Belkin’s strict reliance on archival materials to tell Wallace’s story ensures that the biography on display is a sturdy outline of the man’s life, but never anything close to a complete picture” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

One Child Nation (dirs. Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang)

A devastating documentary account of China’s “one-child policy,” a brutally Orwellian population-control decree that lasted from 1979 to 2015” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

This devastatingly powerful film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, is an absorbing, eye-opening, and emotionally draining experience” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

[The directors] impressively draw upon several documentary techniques – personal reflection, investigative thriller, social history – to convey the myriad shocking outcomes of the government-mandated birth control policy” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

With only three feature documentaries to her credit thus far, Nanfu Wang has already established herself as one of the best nonfiction filmmakers of all time, and the wrenchingly personal and politically loaded One Child Nation is her finest and most important work yet” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (dir. André Øvredal)

Visually astounding, but narratively sloppy and tiresome, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in no way improves upon its creepy source material” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Scares the audience, given its limited material” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

TIFF 2019


In the Toronto Star, Peter Howell speaks with Joana Vicente, TIFF’s new co-head

David Crosby Remembers His Fame

In the Toronto Star, Peter Howell talks to David Crosby on angry bandmates, Woodstock, Altamont and hungry tigers