TFCA Friday: Week of Oct. 28

October 28, 2022

Decision to Leave | Mongrel Media

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


In Release this Week


Aftersun (dir. Charlotte Wells)


“The sincerity, nostalgia and whiffs of familial mystery are all held together by two perfect little performances,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Corio, a newcomer who feels plucked straight out of Wells’s imagination, is achingly pure as Sophie, a girl on the verge of rebellious adolescence who, at least for now, desires nothing more than to be tethered to this man who she only fractionally knows.”


“Sophie tells [Calum], ‘I’ll just record it in my little mind camera,’ an elegant description of how we remember those childhood vacations – there’s the physical (or digital) record, always a few generations older and grainier than the latest tech, and then there’s the mind camera’s recollections, brighter and sharper than an old tape, even though they’re also prone to embellishment or error. That may also be why we treasure them so,” says Chris Knight in a five-star review at the National Post. “Wells gives us both in Aftersun, which takes its title from the soothing balm we apply after being out in the sunshine.”


“A father and daughter resort holiday, viewed through a prism of wistfulness and regret, takes on magical meaning in this arresting feature directing debut by Scotland’s Charlotte Wells,” notes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Paul Mescal plays a drifting dad and Frankie Corio his old-for-her-years daughter, as the two attempt to reunite following a family split. Both are marvellously expressive, their back stories more hinted at through actions than explained through words.”


“A big part of the success of the film is its leads, whose challenge was to create characters we could hold onto and that who we wanted to follow, even though we see them in small bites. The performances must be both casual and yet give us insight into the characters,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Without being explicit, and by leaving the details up to us to intuit, Wells has given us a film that has a tonal delicacy yet a deep emotional core. It’s a beautiful debut film.”


The Banshees of Inisherin (dir. Martin McDonagh)


“Here’s my problem with the film—and, indeed, with much of McDonogh’s work. His characters are sharply drawn, and the dialogue is often brilliant. He can be very funny, turning humour in on itself when the moment is right. But why does his work have to be so violent?” asks Marc Glassman at Classical FM. The Banshees of Inisherin is a bafflingly brilliant work. It may not be totally comprehensible but there’s much to admire in the film.”


“Inisherin’s foggy, dangerous climate and geography mirror the action, and dark natures take over,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Titanic performances, a superb script by director Martin McDonagh and the living, breathing beauty of the island contribute to the film’s Shakespearean qualities.”


“The acting is superb. If you are a fan of great performances, then this must be on your radar. Farrell won Best Actor at the Venice FIlm Festival for his portrayal of Pádraic. Gleeson is at his stormy best. Performances by Kerry Condon sister, and Barry Keoghan should be awards bait,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “The Irish have struggled to find peace on a road historically paved with war. The little village in The Banshees of Inisherin seems a microcosm of the complexity of maintaining that peace, even among ostensible friends.”


The Banshees of Inisherin (on my list of top 10 films this year) is the better, more concise and more cinematic but equally satisfying film than his Academy Award winning and TIFF People’s Choice Award winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  – a depressing film of sorts, but this is here that the film excels,” raves Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“Reality intrudes with the sound of gunfire across the water on the mainland, where a sectarian civil war ensues, something that has long shattered the peace of the Emerald Isle,” observes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Indeed, if there’s any message to the film, it’s the caution that small hurts and insults left unsettled can lead to bigger and more dangerous battles, as those guns across the water attest.”


“Farrell turns in what is arguably a career-best performance,” exclaims Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “But it’s Kerry Condon who deserves the most praise. She plays Siobhán, a woman who desires for more from life and is the ultimate protector of Pádraic. Siobhán is the rational beating heart to the story — and to Pádraic — and Condon is incredibly moving and comical in her portrayal.”


“McDonagh’s genius here is in taking such a slight opening premise – two guys not being friends any more – and spinning it into a wide-ranging tale that manages to touch on God and society, music and remembrance, ambition and contentment,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “And always the humour. There’s a scene where Pádraic tries to ward off a musician who’s come from the mainland to visit Colm, which plays like an old joke someone overheard in a pub. And when Siobhan visits the mainland and writes back to say she’s nicely ensconced there, Pádraic’s reply begins: ‘Dear Siobhan: Obviously I don’t know what ‘ensconced’ is…’”


Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power (dir. Nina Menkes)


“Habits are hard to break in Hollywood,” reflects Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Why change? Mendes shows how the male gaze in film intersects with the ‘twin epidemics’ of sexual abuse and assault and employment discrimination in the film industry. Once you see this doc, you won’t be able to unsee it.”


Brainwashed is not a debate. Menkes pointedly doesn’t present an antithesis because there isn’t one. However, there are nuances to the subject that Menkes ignores,” observes Rachel Ho at POV Magazine. “So while Menkes’ arguments about the camera and male gaze are important, not taking into consideration how filmmakers have reappropriated the gaze, fails to tell the whole story.”


Call Jane (dir. Phyllis Nagy)


“[Joy’s] bravery counts for a lot and her actions free her from the mind-numbing life she’d been leading,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said. “I like the story, simply told with no distracting frills, an ordinary woman making change in her community by giving women second chances. Call Jane was an underground service for women in pre-Roe USA.”


“Slot Call Jane into that rare genre of ‘feel-good abortion movie,’ one that celebrates the bond between the women involved. For a more difficult-to-watch but also narratively superior movie, check out Happening, a French film from director Audrey Diwan, set at roughly the same time. It also came out this year,” suggests Chris Knight at the National Post. “Or for the stout of heart and strong of stomach, there’s 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 days from Romanian director Christian Mungiu. Protected or illegal, abortion remains a powerful topic for filmmakers.”


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a powerful film about the resilience of women, their strength and unity.”


“The story of the Janes is a part of American and women’s history that is frighteningly still relevant today,” observes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. Call Jane may not be an edgy interpretation that’s looking to change minds, but it will certainly be a great jumping-off point for younger generations to familiarize and educate themselves.”


“Banks holds the center of the film, with a warm seriousness, as Joy, a soigné suburban housewife in 1968 Chicago, who discovers her secret powers through a feminist abortion collective,” says Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “We first see her, viewed from behind, coiffed and elegant in a downtown hotel, where she’s helping her husband celebrate his promotion to partner at his law firm. The time is August, 1968, and outside the hotel there’s an historic Democratic Convention riot going on, seen in silhouette through the hotel’s glass doors.


“Where Call Jane really comes to life is in the scenes with Sigourney Weaver. Virginia might be Weaver’s best role since The Ice Storm and she similarly attacks it,” notes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “This performance brings the spark, authority, and directness that makes the urgency of Call Jane resonate. She’s very good at using her body in the space of each scene to remind her fellow Janes to be fearless. As one of the few stars of Call Jane to have come of age in the era of the Janes, Weaver knows the stakes and she makes them palpably clear.”


Decision to Leave (dir. Park Chan-wook)


“Park Chan-wook’s neo-noir about an obsessed cop and a widow of deadly suspicion operates in the misty realm between sleep and wakefulness,” notes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “I felt shivers of Vertigo and In the Mood for Love, plus an intense desire to see it again. Park encourages such close inspection: every frame is like a painting, with hints to character motivation and plot twists.”


“There’s a lot going on in the film without it feeling overbearing or lost in the weeds — every detail is intentional, even when it seems chaotic,” observes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. Ho also speaks with director Park Chan-wook at The Asian Cut and observes a unique character development between the director’s new film and one of his old favourites: “Park grappled with the fact that Mi-do, the lone female lead character in Oldboy, was the only one not to know the truth by the end,” notes Ho. “And so, Park resolved to recognize this new awareness he had in his storytelling. ‘I tried to put the female characters more at the forefront,’ Park tells us. ‘[I wanted to] give her a more active role in driving the narrative forward. Give her more power, if not the same power, as male characters in the story.’”


“It’s a brainteaser and an eloquent reimagining of the way people can be represented on-screen, a genius formula heightened by inventive cinematography and editing,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s a big, revolutionary experience, yet it has a whiff of the past in touches of Hitchcock’s playful suspense and owes a debt to the noirest of noir.”


“Park captures the subtle pain and growing obsession of his characters with masterful focus,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “If Decision to Leave is indeed intended as an homage to a genre, mission accomplished.” Slotek also speaks with Park Chan-wook about his influences, which might surprise viewers: “Subconsciously, I am always under the influence of Hitchcock,” says the director. “But with my co-writer (Jeong Seo-kyeong) I talked about (David Lean’s) Brief Encounter to be the reference, just for the ambience.”


“Myriad, but minor-key, swerves and detours further confuse the journey, as if Park intends his audience to become as disconnected from their lives as Hae-jun,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But the ultimate ride is well worth any destabilization, especially given how much control Park exercises over every single frame of his work. This is meticulous, beautiful filmmaking that is rich in meaning and fat with detail. Surrender to Park’s smoky, dangerous romance – vengeance can wait.”


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it a “Korean styled Detective film noir with a few shades of Hitchcock.”


“Park Chan-wook has made a beautiful film, one that is crafted to show how social media has made the pursuit of truth nearly impossible,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “As for love and commitment, Park is ambiguous, as are many of us. The imagery in Park’s film is darkly romantic, revealing the beauty of the city and the venues of the wealthy: glamourous dining and living rooms, brilliantly lit swimming pools, elaborate bedrooms.”


Decision to Leave features a sensationally smouldering performance from Tang Wei (Lust, Caution) as Seo-rae, a Chinese woman whose Korean husband dies during a climbing ‘accident,’” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “Seo-rae is one of Park’s best creations—one that shouldn’t invite comparison to Hitchcock, but instead reaffirm that Park and Hitchcock, at their best, work on the same plane.” Mullen also chats with Park about his list of influences—which doesn’t include Hitchcock, despite all the comparisons the film invites!


Descendant (dir. Margaret Brown)


“This undeniable, often unbearable, and deeply disturbing story is told with dignity, and it rings a bell that may just result in amends for 140 years of injustice related to 400 years before that. Breathtaking,” raves Anne Brodie at What She Said.

Drinkwater (dir. Stephen Campanelli 🇨🇦)


Drinkwater feels like a movie that fell through a time warp from the 1980s,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s also, coincidentally, quite possibly the most Canadian film ever made. This is a movie set (and filmed!) in Penticton, B.C., in which someone is shown reading a real newspaper (The Penticton Herald) with the page-one headline: Moose Gives Birth Outside of Tim Hortons.”


Find Her (dir. Nick McCallum)


“[I]ronically I happened to watch the neo-noir Find Her right after watching Brainwashed, and the classic male gaze tropes used for women’s detriment were in full swing,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “And guess who the villains are? … A woman who is a weapons expert who is photographed and developed as a man would be. So that’s interesting.”


Forget Me Not (dir. Olivier Bernier)


Forget Me Not is both an insightful and moving film that reveals a path to a more inclusive society that starts with welcoming diversity in the classroom from everyone, with or without a challenged child,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The film truly shows that acceptance and charity form the key.”


The Good Nurse (dir. Tobias Lindholm)


At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes chats with actors Jessica Chastaine and Eddie Redmayne and learns how they crafted their characters. Chastain tells Fernandes that her character Amy took the night shift so that her kids wouldn’t grow up without a mom. “[S]he put everything aside, always thinking about her daughters,” says Chastain. “I grew up in a home of a single mother. I think single moms are just the most incredible superheroes we have in our society that we don’t acknowledge enough because it is a great feat to not only raise children, but also provide for them and keep them safe and loved.”


Louis Armstrong: Black and Blues (dir. Sacha Jenkins)


“Jenkins’ film plays a pivotal role in reaching out not only to this generation but to future ones, peeling back the layers of the man and showing better than any previous documentary has the fundamental power of the man and his music through his own voice,” writes Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “The end result is an entertaining and informative film for even the most jaded of Jazz fans, but equally a powerful and pedagogically rich testament to the legendary man.”


“Most of the participants who knew Armstrong are dead and there’s something melancholy about realizing that the human being behind that voice is silent,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “What remains is a quality that Marsalis identifies as essential in Armstrong’s music, a gift which he was fully conscious of, conveying a ‘transcendent joy’ through sound.”


Prey for the Devil (dir. Daniel Stamm)


“Despite all efforts to distinguish the film from other exorcism films in the first half, the second half of the film descents into familiar territory of exorcism, where the demon is after the exorcist with the possessed body flung to the walls and ceiling as the priests, likewise, flung around the room,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “At least the audiences is spared from green bile spewed from the possessed’s mouth.”


“The film began as a screenplay called The Devil’s Flame, before being renamed The Devil’s Light along its way to the punning title of Prey for the Devil,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “They’re none of them memorable monikers, which means any of them would be well suited for this forgettable bit of Halloween flotsam.”


“[T]he film grapples with the all too real horror of abuse,” writes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “The film’s most frightening moments are Sister Ann’s memories of an unpredictably violent (and loving) mother. Debora Zhecheva plays the Young Ann. Seen in flashbacks, Zhecheva conveys quiet vulnerability, loneliness, and fear. The combination of Zhecheva’s performance with Stamm’s direction makes these scenes terrifying in just how complicit and normalized abuse can be.”


Wendell & Wild (dir. Henry Selick)


At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes chats with funnymen Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key about collaborating with Nightmare Before Christmas director Selick and fusing horror and humour. “When (Selick) first reached out, he may have just thought that he was reaching out to an actor. But I think the secret I had was that I was not going to let him get away that easy,” Peele tells Fernandes. “So by the end of the thing, I think I sunk my talons in a little bit and said, ‘No, I’m actually a huge fan. This would be just a tremendous honour to help you do this, however I can.’ That’s kind of how that collaboration started.”


“[M]ore suited to the child in adults as the plot is too confusing for the younger ones not to mention that the scenes are quite frightening,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Old-fashioned stop-animation at its very best!”


Features – Horror, Hags, and Haunted Nightmares


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz dissects the rise of horror movies as the Final Girls, so to speak, of the COVID-era box office massacre. “The reasons that horror always hits are half-obvious, half-curious,” writes Hertz. “There are the easy thrills that come with facing the unknown from a safe distance. There is the titillation that comes with watching characters, almost always young and impulse-free doofuses, getting hacked and slashed for their supposed moral trespasses. There is the pleasure of having one part of your brain warning you to not look at the screen, while at the same time other parts of your body – your quickly beating heart, your escalating pulse – pull you in exactly the opposite direction.” Hertz also offers five streaming picks for 2022 horror movies if you weren’t able to be collectively sliced and diced at the cinema.


At Night Vision, Peter Howell looks back at The Manchurian Candidate upon its 60th anniversary and deconstructs a pivotal sequence: “Frank Sinatra played one of the soldiers, Maj. Bennett ‘Ben’ Marco, who is haunted by recurring nightmares that seem all too real. Most of the film’s many secrets are revealed, but one of them has remained mysterious for six decades: the meaning of the bizarre train dialogue between Marco and Eugenie Rose ‘Rosie’ Cheyney, a fellow passenger. She becomes fascinated with a distracted and sweating Marco as he struggles with a cigarette and his tortured thoughts,” writes Howell. “Played by the great Janet Leigh, Rosie brings glamour and romance to the film. But her conversation with Marco as she lights a cigarette for him, while the northeastern landscape shoots past, could be straight out of The Twilight Zone.”


As What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? marks its 60th anniversary this Halloween, Nathalie Atkinson at Zoomer talks to Caroline Young, author of a new book on its the legacy of hagsploitation. “Arguably, part of the fun for audiences watching those films back in the 1960s and 1970s was to see these well-known, once-glamorous stars and esteemed character actors debasing themselves,” writes Atkinson.


A Festival of Festival Coverage: Rendezvous with Madness


At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen previews the 30th annual Rendezvous with Madness Festival: “Rendezvous with Madness, which returns as a hybrid event with screenings happening online and in-person at its new digs at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, should remind audiences of the therapeutic benefit of shared experiences,” notes Mullen. “For example, the festival selection Bigger than Trauma considers the power of collective catharsis.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey also checks out the Rendezvous with Madness Festival and finds some timely highlights: “Most of the other films in this year’s selection are less about specific psychiatric disorders than the challenges of working and living in precarious times. ‘Life is hard, is the opening voice-over in Lee Yong Chao’s Rain in 2020, an understatement in a film set in rural Myanmar amid the dangerous work of jade mining, COVID lockdowns, and the flooding that filled the streets and led to a mudslide that took more than 100 lives,” writes Lacey.


TV Talk/Series Scribbles


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz speaks with Oakville native Adam DiMarco about the second season of The White Lotus, Mike White’s holiday-sexytime mini-series that spawned a second season. “Mike described it as a bedroom farce this time around,” DiMarco tells Hertz. “All the class privileges and those themes of inequity that he explored in the first season are still there obviously, but he wanted to explore something different this time…I never asked him, ‘Why sex?’ But sex sells. And I’m buying whatever Mike is putting down.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie also books a room at The White Lotus: “The thing about the White Lotus brand concept is that it’s addictive,” notes Brodie. “The colourful, beautiful, rich characters, outrageous plot twists, secrets and betrayals, the haute luxury hotel, and displays of wealth. But it’s also deeply cynical – these people are fortunate but all they can do is destroy, lie and steal.” Anne goes from sunny Italy to drizzly Scotland with the crime case Karen Pirie: “This gripping and charged three-parter is well worth a binge.” Laughs might be as hard to find in Steve Coogan’s Chivalry: “Coogan’s humour can grate after a while, as ever. A bit too uncomfortable,” Brodie admits, while Across and Down shows the modernization of crossword puzzles. “Welcome to 2022 as people work toward enlightenment and inclusion,” notes Brodie. But for audiences inspired by all the drinks by the pool in The White Lotus, there’s also Drink Masters: “The complexity of the art of mixology, and the knowledge of flavours and sources is impressive and you’ll learn while having a great time,” writes Brodie. “And guess what? It films in Hamilton!”


At Exclaim!, Rachel Ho checks out Cabinet of Curiosities, which is created by Guillermo del Toro, but not directed by him. “Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when I learned that del Toro wouldn’t be directing any episodes of Cabinet of Curiosities, but I welcome being proven wrong in this case,” admits Ho. “Del Toro brought together a great group of storytellers and curated arresting tales of terror, revulsion and consternation to create a well-crafted anthology series that will delight horror heads and intrigue the uninitiated all the same.”