The concept for György Pálfi Free Fall holds so much promise: a woman climbs the stairs of an apartment building and we get a glimpse of what’s going on behind the doors of an apartment on each floor. It’s a great set-up for an anthology film though here, Pálfi and collaborating directors Gergely Pohárnok and Zsófia Ruttkay take on all seven stories and the result is exactly what most other anthology films deliver: a mixed bag.
The set-up is interesting enough; the aforementioned old lady climbs the stairs of her apartment building to the roof, jumps off and lands on the road with a splat. Minutes later she stands up, brushes herself off and goes back into the building where’s she’s forced to walk up the stairs because the elevator is being serviced. There’s no explanation as to how or why she’s doing this but it does turn out to be one of the more interesting and entertaining aspects of Free Fall. As she climbs, we get a glimpse at what’s unfolding behind the doors and it ranges in everything form a Korean sitcom to a woman having a baby shoved back into her stomach.
A few years ago, French Canadian director Maxime Giroux appeared like a beacon of light on the radar of Canadian film. Jo for Jonathan, his second feature, a moody and sombre family drama about two brothers at odds with each other, was a standout of the year and ever since, the anticipation of the director’s follow-up has been rising. Through this expectant fog emerges Felix and Meira and though it stumbles a little, it doesn’t disappoint.
Another family drama, Felix and Meira centers on two disparate people each locked in their own familial struggles. Felix is the black sheep of the family, having run away and been disowned by his father. At the beginning of the film he is struggling with the recent passing of his estranged father – a passing that didn’t allow for Felix to make amends with his dad. Meira is a somewhat dutiful Hasidic Jewish wife and mother. Somewhat because there’s a rebellious streak to Meira: she draws, she listens to forbidden music and perhaps her most grievous offence is that she takes birth control pills. She’s unhappy but faithful to her husband until an encounter with Felix pulls her out of her shell and her quiet life.
The relationship between the two lost souls begins innocently enough. Felix gives Meira pictures he’s dawn, plays albums for her and takes her about the city. It’s a friendship that feels heavy with unspoken romance. Eventually the relationship morphs into a more typical romance but Felix and Meira is at its best when the relationship between the titular characters is budding. Hadas Yaron as Meira and Martin Dubreuil as Felix have an easy connection and the pair are wonderful together, sharing stolen moments that feel at once insignificant and like their every bit of being depends on them. Giroux captures these moments beautifully.
Director: George Tillman Jr. (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Faster, Notorious) Writer: Craig Bolotin, Nicholas Sparks (novel) Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Theresa Park, Nicholas Sparks Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, Alan Alda MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running time: 139 min.
Here’s the deal: you’ve seen this movie before. It’s not really like The Notebook but it’s as close to it as we’ve come in the adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels since. Truth: Sparks knows how to weave a good, if predictable, romantic yarn and The Longest Ride is no different.
Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood are the lovely couple this time around. She, Sophia, is a New Jersey daughter of immigrants studying art at the local college in one of the Carolinas while he, Luke, is a good ‘ole southern boy who spends his days professionally riding bulls. The pair meet at one of his events, there’s a spark and eventually they end up together though not before each is forced to confront their personal problems and put everything on the line for love. The end. Happily ever after. And yes, it is happily ever after. Sparks and Disney are the few bastions of happy endings left. Though Sparks’ usually come at the cost of a few extra tissues.
If, like me, you missed the memo, The Longest Ride also stars Alan Alda as Ira, a crotchety old man that is befriended by Sophia. He shares the story of the hardships and happiness of his relationship with his wife, a relationship he refers to as “the longest ride” and his story prompts Sophia to give Luke another go because, as we all know, true love is hard to find and can sometimes be difficult. I’m sure you can figure out how Ira’s story ends too but seriously, if your complaint about this movie is its predictability, you really need to get out more.
Director: Caryn Waechter Writer: Marilyn Fu, Steven Millhauser (short story) Producers: Elizabeth Cuthrell, Lydia Dean Pilcher Starring: Georgie Henley, Kara Hayward, Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman, Olivia DeJonge, Kal Penn, Laura Fraser MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running time: 104 min.
The current crop of YA movies may be, for the most part, burning up the box office but the majority of them don’t feature regular, everyday kids dealing with regular, everyday problems. Yes, the messages are mostly positive but how likely is it that a girl will have to save the world from the grips of a power hungry leader with her bow and arrow?
The easy thing to do is chalk The Sisterhood of Night up to modern retelling of the Salem witch trials and it certainly is that but it’s also far more. Based on a short story from Pulitzer Prize winning author Steven Millhauser and adapted by Marilyn Fu, the story takes the concept of the witch trials and sets it in today’s highschool world complete with the perils of social media.
The grown-up Georgie Henley (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame) stars as Mary Warren, an artistic and largely independent teen girl who, after a couple of run ins with an attention hungry Emily Parris (Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward) decides to take a break from social media. She updates Facebook one last time and then turns her attention to real world connections. The teen soon befriends a pair of other girls and the trio begin the Sisterhood of Night, a by invitation-only club that sees girls getting together in the middle of the night in the woods and what they do there soon becomes the centre of a scandal.
It’s starting. Though we’ve had a handful of interesting (and good) titles in the first few months of the year, it looks like we’re finally into good movie season with a couple of big titles opening in April. The summer is about to kick off big time and Colleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) dig into the first batch of “summer” movies.
I always love a little surprise at a film festival but that surprise is usually a little foreign gem and rarely does it manifest as a comedy and a Canadian one at that.
Last year’s VIFF brought both the awesomeness of Welcome to Me (trailer, review) and Preggoland (review). The latter is written and stars Sonja Bennett, a talented Canadian actress who you’ve probably seen gracing either your small screen or the silver screen. She’s been around for a while but her turn here as Ruth, a 30 something woman who fakes her pregnancy, is really star making. Not only is the script funnier and smarter than the concept has any right to be, Bennett has excellent comedic timing and the movie, which also co-stars James Caan and Danny Trejo in an unlikely but hilarious role, is a big winner.
The entire thing is directed by Jacob Tierney and that right there is indication that we’re in good hands, but Preggoland really defies expectation to deliver a great Canadian comedy the likes of which I haven’t seen since Starbuck (review).
I‘ve been a fan of Ruba Nadda since I saw Cairo Time a couple of years ago and when the chance to speak to speak with the Canadian director about her new romantic thriller October Gale came up, I jumped at the opportunity.
I really likedOctober Gale when I saw it at VIFF last year. It’s not the darkest of thrillers but it’s a great story of the hardships of working through loss and features fantastic perfomrances from Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman and Tim Roth.
During our chat, Ms. Nadda and I talk about her recent fascination with thrillers, the art of on-screen chemistry and the difficulties, especially in today’s landscape, of romances that simmer just below the surface.
We’re not really sure where February went but here we are, looking forward to March and all it has to offer which, sadly, isn’t much. And yet Colleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) do manage to find a few titles to get excited about. As usual.
I’m finally starting to figure out the appeal of Kristen Wiig and all it took was seeing her in a handful of movies where she plays the same sort of character: likeable but somewhat pathetic individuals who, none the less, manage to be less pathetic at the end than at the beginning of their journey. They’re always a little humerous and Wiig is always great but in Welcome to Me (review), Wiig elevates from great to brilliant.
Welcome to Me is uncomfortable to watch. Wiig’s Alice quite obviously suffers from mental health issues and laughing at her antics is a bit icky but the movie somehow tows the fine line between creepy and funny and I came away with a new sense of awe not only for Wiig but for the rest of the cast, particularly Wes Bentley who hasn’t been memorable in years.
I love this movie.
Welcome to Me opens May 8. Fingers crossed it finds an audience that appreciates the genius.