I always try to squeeze in a handful of Canadian features throughout my festival going (it’s often the only time I really get to see new emerging Canadian talent) and I’m either getting really good at selecting titles or this year’s batch of films are particularly strong. On this Canadian film roundup, I touch base on three Canadian features: Terry Miles’ woman-in-crisis story Cinemanovels, Jeff Barnaby’s brilliant feature debut Rhymes for Young Ghouls and the Cannes selected Sarah Prefers to Run (click on the title to jump directly to the movie).
I first discovered Terry Miles’ work at VIFF in 2009 with the release of The Red Rooster (review). I didn’t care much for that movie but Miles showed great promise and the following year I had a chance to see his follow-up A Night for Dying Tigers and again I was disappointed to find a movie that looked great and showed promise in the script but didn’t really manage to deliver. I was convinced that Cinemanovels was going to be the movie to break the mould and that with it, Miles would finally hit the jackpot and deliver a really great movie and for the most part, he has succeeded.
Lauren Lee Smith is fantastic in her leading performance here as Grace, a 30 something married woman going through a midlife crisis. She and her husband (Ben Cotton is also pretty great here) have been trying to have a baby and Grace is frustrated by the process. Things aren’t helped any when her father, a celebrated Canadian film director who abandoned Grace and her mother for his young muse, dies. In an attempt to learn more about her dad, Grace offers to curate a showing of his works, a process which brings her closer to understanding the man her father was and also helps her deal with the problems in her own life.
Cinemanovels features Miles’ excellent cinematography, great performances, particularly from Smith who is magnetic on screen, and a story that is not only interesting but well developed. The woman in crisis theme has been appearing a lot lately and my common complaint with many of them is that the women all feel unrealistic and childish. Grace’s situation is relatable and her actions and reactions feel real.
It’s not perfect (would have been nice to see a bit more from Katharine Isabelle whose character is mostly unnecessary and the movie clips from Grace’s great Canadian master director are painfully bad) but Cinemanovels is funny, touching, smart and the movie Miles has been working towards for years.
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