TFCA Friday: Week of Mar. 3

March 3, 2023

Queens of the Qing Dynasty | Photo by Steve Wadden


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


Stay tuned! We’ll announce the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film award on Monday, March 6? Will it be Brother, Crimes of the Future, or Riceboy Sleeps???


In Release this Week!


Calendar Girls (dir. Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen)


“Besides the energetic message about keeping oneself young, Calendar Girls should please audiences with its bubbly spirit and sage wisdom,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “It’s a story about self-preservation and self-love, but also sisterhood: growing old isn’t easy, so there’s no point in doing it alone.”


Creed 3 (dir. Michael B. Jordan)


“Running at around the two-hour mark, Creed III is not bad a sports boxing drama with exciting enough match scenes that should keep Rocky fans at the edge of their seats, despite the cliché ridden script,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“Yes, the fight is still Rocky-esque, with sledgehammer blows that would end most fights instantly. But in the history of the dual franchise, there have not been two combatants (other than maybe Rocky and Apollo) with such an emotional connection,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Creed III has the fights, it has a story, and it has a heart. For Jordan, it’s a feature directing debut with punch.”


“This would all be impressive enough if delivered by a returning Coogler, or even Creed II director Steven Caple Jr,” jabs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But the fact that Jordan himself decided to sit in the director’s chair this time – making his feature-film directorial debut – levels everything up a notch. The actor is as engaging and captivating as ever onscreen as Adonis, yet he’s just as present and committed behind the camera, delivering a stirring string of heartwarming and jawbreaking moments that add up to something if not exactly unique, than certainly rousing, effective and entertaining.”


Enter the Drag Dragon (dir. Lee Demarbre)


“[A] hoot,” proclaims Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The whiplash pace is fun, and a character wears T-shirts celebrating Asian film talent, including a case of good timing, Michelle Yeoh. It’s sly, subversive, shocking and fun, not a movie as much as a lark with plenty of tomfoolery.”


Joyride (dir. Emer Reynolds)


“There are no Shyamalan twists in Joyride, nothing wildly out of the ordinary or requiring some grand suspension of disbelief. It’s a story about temporarily lost souls finding their way, delivered by talented actors doing very good work,” writes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “Maybe it’s just me, but every Colman performance prompts tiny tingles in the hope that she might win another Oscar and deliver another fantastically ad-hoc and memorable Oscar speech. Doubtful to happen here, alas, but Joyride — title very much tongue-in-cheek, or maybe a play on words — is nevertheless highly recommended.”


A Little White Lie (dir. Michael Maren)

A Little White Lie is a small little film with a slight story,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “One wonders the reason Kate Hudson was so enamoured by the book that she served as a producer for the film.”


Palm Trees and Power Lines (dir. Jamie Dack)


“For a film with a story such as this one, one expects Lea to come to her senses and turn back to the mother, which she does for a bit and totally rejects Tom,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “That she does not, leaves the audience with a somewhat unsatisfactory (though braver and more risky with credit going to the director) ending and a nasty taste in the mouth.”


Queens of the Qing Dynasty (dir. Ashley McKenzie 🇨🇦)


“It remains, like so many wonderfully tiny Canadian films, a masterpiece in the margins,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “What might initially sound like an exercise in Maritime miserablism – what, in other hands, might so easily descend into that increasingly metastasizing indie-cinema genre of trauma porn – is instead a delightfully playful, energetic and extraordinarily empathetic work. While McKenzie is extending the themes that she previously explored in Werewolf – the thrills and dangers of codependency, how easy it is for people to become stuck in one place – she is also stretching the limits of Canadian cinema (low budgets, few locations, handful of performers) to create something elastic, thrilling, new.”


“The film is a slow trudge but often than not, it takes time to tell a story that needs to be settled in –  a real story with real life characters,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“The measured cadence of Queens admittedly is of the love-it-or-leave it variety, but well-caffeinated cinephiles should embrace the strange,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “McKenzie’s sophomore feature confidently marks herself an assured voice. Mixing stark realism while seemingly taking audiences to another world, McKenzie creates a unique world for these characters to discover themselves anew. Films rarely afford characters such fluidity.”


The Quiet Girl (dir. Colm Bairéad)


“Young actor Catherine Clinch is Cáit, The Quiet Girl and she will break your heart. She is 9 years old and one of four girls born to a poor Irish family expecting a fifth child, victims of the unspoken Roman Catholic doctrinal ban on birth control. It’s rural Ireland, 1981 the man of the house is a drunk and a gambler, and the mother is powerless to shift him,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Clinch’s superbly nuanced performance, at age 11 is phenomenal, her stillness reverberating with emotional power with occasional bursts of pure joy. It lingers.”


“If there is one film that should be seen this year, The Quiet Girl is the one,” declares Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Written and directed by  by Colm Bairéad, The Quiet Girl is a quiet, simple story that drives the fact that the simplest tale can create the greatest emotional impact.  The film is both a coming-of-age story of a 9-year old girl, who while still wetting herself occasionally in bed, discovers love and kindness in a temporary family for the first time.”


Return to Seoul (dir. Davy Chou)


“Impatient and reckless, Freddie is a disrupting force to anyone she encounters,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “She ignores social cues, questions authority at every turn, and seems to live her life as if it should have ended long ago. And thank goodness for that, as by centring his film around such an unpredictable and at times intensely unlikeable character, Chou bucks any expectations that typically arrive with films about people rediscovering their roots. Return to Seoul is not a dour, sombre thing – it is intense, electric and confrontational.”


Return to Seoul is about adoption, and the kinds of inner questions about self and identity that are suddenly and unexpectedly triggered by connecting with biological parents. In a broader sense, most of us have events and encounters that rattle one’s sense of self and personal identity are universal and relatable,’ says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Those themes aside, what holds our attention in Return to Seoul is this character.”


Spoonful of Sugar (dir. Mercedes Bryce Morgan)


Spoonful of Sugar succeeds as a horror film and a very nasty one at that,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “As for a happy ending, the best that can be said is that every character in the story gets their comeuppance, which makes a satisfactory, rather than a happy ending.”


Still the Water (dir. Naomi Kawase)


“While no one can expect answers to the big questions the film circles around, for a film of such solemnity, Still the Water ends up feeling awfully pat,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Kawase’s attempt at a healing, nature-loving cathartic conclusion comes across as campy, as if a scene from The Blue Lagoon was accidentally attached to a Japanese nature documentary.”


There’s Always Hope (dir. Tim Lewiston)


“In most every case, emotional traumas and grievances decades in the making fall prey to a nice merlot and, y’know, just the right amount of talking. In one case, we witness a reconciliation in the distance, angry shouting replaced by giddy laughter before the bottle’s even empty,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “The scenery is amazing, obviously, so you have something to look at even if there’s very little story to speak of, no crisis point, no emotional catharsis. And all that wine-drinking should put you in a fine mood for some glass-swirling when you get home.”


To Leslie (dir. Michael Morris)


“[I]n any other situation, Riseborough’s would be heralded as delivering a virtuoso performance, and, indeed, one that is Oscar-worthy,” observes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “Regardless of facts, Leslie is a story of one person’s struggle to triumph over crisis. That could be a tedious conceit, but Morris transforms the film beyond the humdrum trappings of a recovery story. Not that there aren’t tropes; seedy motels, humiliating drunken advances, and a liberal amount of bad behaviour. But the tropes are infused with a stark reality that defies worn observations and an instinct to glamourize the fallen and the destitute.”

Unseen Skies (dir. Yaara Bou Melhem)


“The film offers an inquiry that’s sometimes confusing, but consistently provocative,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Moreover, as with any doc about a photographer, there’s gorgeous cinematography as Unseen Skies captures Paglen at work. Especially while photographing Glen Canyon in Arizona or shooting picturesque Nevada, the nature landscape looks like an oasis from the digital world. Some shots are so beautiful you’ll wonder if they’re real or captured with a green screen.”


A Festival of Festival Coverage: Can Con at Kingston


At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen previews the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, the largest festival devoted exclusively to Canadian film, and chats with festival director Marc Garniss. “We position ourselves as a snapshot of what’s happened in the year in Canadian film, rather than saying come to KCFF to see all these films first,’ says Garniss. This year’s festival, for example, includes two of the Toronto Film Critics Association’s nominees for the Rogers Best Canadian Film award: Riceboy Sleeps opens this year’s Kingston Canadian Film Festival while fellow nominee Brother is an official selection. The festival is also the best place for one-stop shopping for cinephiles eager to check off many Canadian Screen Award nominees. ‘Oftentimes, films that are released at TIFF may still be fresh for Kingston’s audiences that haven’t had access to them,’ adds Garniss.”


TV Talk/Series Scribbles


At Yahoo Canada, Marriska Fernandes highlights the month in streaming, which includes the debut of Daisy Jones and the Six: “Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, the series follows the story of a fictional ’70s band, fronted by two feuding yet charismatic lead singers,” writes Fernandes. “Drawn together by personal and artistic chemistry, the series follows the band from obscurity to unbelievable fame.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie checks out the four-parter The Confessions of Frannie Langton, |an LGBTQ+ drama mystery series set in 1825, really pushes the envelope in its depictions of society, the British slave trade, and its resounding impact then and now…The series moves like greased lightning but I’ll just let drop that they are discovered.”


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz steps out of the MCU to see what’s happening in Star Wars land: “This is the kind of formula-first genre storytelling that sticks to what has worked in the show’s previous two seasons: weekly adventures of gunslinging and starship-fighting that are steeped just deep enough in Lucasfilm lore to satiate Star Wars devotees, but constructed with a keen understanding of, and appreciation for, week-to-week casual viewing,” writes Hertz. “You can enjoy The Mandalorian no matter if you’ve binged the Clone Wars cartoon or cannot tell a Wookiee from a Woostoid to save your life.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey tunes into Daisy Jones and the Six: “As well as its carefully curated retro sets and wardrobe, the series sounds expensive, as Amazon has licensed a lot of period music, from Strawberry Alarm Clock to T-Rex, Carole King, Dusty Springfield, Billy Preston, Heart and Roxy Music, even The Rolling Stones, though the most insistent ear-worm of the series, on the opening credits of each episode, is Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot.’” Meanwhile, The Reluctant Traveller is “a delicacy for those with a taste for excess.”