TIFF 2018 – Day 5: The Most Beautiful Couple, Kingsway

The Most Beautiful Couple.

The Most Beautiful Couple (Germany/France, 2018): One would be hard-pressed to find a more harrowing opening act than the one that gets The Most Beautiful Couple started. While vacationing in Mallorca, Malte and Liv’s cottage is invaded three wrongdoers, one of which sexually assaults Liv, while the other two force Malte to watch.

Cut to two years later. Liv seems to have put the incident behind her, while Malte harbours a deep resentment over not have been able to defend his wife when it counted. An opportunity materializes when Malte spots the rapist one night: Revenge seems at his reach, but it would also mean bringing back the trauma Liv worked so hard to overcome.

The Most Beautiful Couple is not Death Wish. Liv and Malte are solid characters whose actions are within the realm of possibility… for the most part. The way they deal with trauma is explored in depth, and the movie benefits greatly of strong turns by Maximilian Brückner and Luise Heyer as the couple in question. Writer/director Sven Taddicken even dares to make the perpetrator a well-rounded character. The denouement feels chaotic and bit far-fetched for such an expertly calibrated drama, but the pluses outweigh the minuses. Three and a half stars. Distribution: One wishes.

Kingsway (Canada, 2018): An almost dire effort by writer/director Bruce Sweeney, Kingsway has a serious tonality problem that’s not even the biggest issue. An emotionally stunted family tackles relationship problems in the most inept way imaginable. The son (Jeff Gladstone) is clinically depressed and the fact his wife is cheating on him doesn’t help. The daughter (Camille Sullivan) is irascible and not particularly good at relating to other humans. The mother (Gabrielle Rose) is slightly more centered. Then again, she raised the children.

Midway through, Kingsway changes directions from aimless comedy to psychological drama, and I’m still enduring the whiplash. The dialogue is basic at best and only Gabrielle Rose is able to make it work. The cinematography is particularly poor, at times reaching film school nadir. There are a few laughs to be had, but overall, this is the kind of movie in which an obviously attractive women goes to bars hoping to meet Mr. Right Now and fails at it. Somebody, please introduce Bruce Sweeney to Tinder. One and a half star. Distribution: TBD.

TIFF 2018 – Day 4: The Lightning Round

Nicole Kidman in Destroyer.

You know the drill. When a movie falls through the cracks, we catch it in the Lightning Round.

Destroyer: Nicole Kidman goes through the procedural motions in a bad wig. Gritty, well executed, but nothing else there.

Nekrotronic: Monica Bellucci turns the internet a portal for demons. Goofy and inventive. Unfortunately gets lost in the minutia.

Dogman: Italians do social realism like no one else. The story of a put-upon dog groomer standing up to his bully gets more tracking than anybody could imagine. A must.

Hotel Mumbai: Much attention with this one: A fierce, almost unbearably intense recreation of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2018. The characters don’t get much development, but the story is as compelling as it gets.

Giant Little OnesCanadian teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality. Would have been more effective if the protagonists weren’t all rich, white, and good looking.

Fahrenheit 11/9: Following the superior Where to Invade Next?Michael Moore returns to the self-mythologizing and fact fudging. This doesn’t mean he is wrong: America is in deep doodoo.

The Predator: Unapologetic fun. Too bad about Shane Black and the male cast (Jacob Tremblay excepted) not supporting Olivia Munn on her denouncement of an actual predator on set.

A Star Is Born: More like A Star Is Bored. Am I right? No? I’m the only one who isn’t gaga for Gaga? Fine, then.

TIFF 2018 – Day 3: Belmonte, Girls of the Sun

Belmonte.

Belmonte (Uruguay/Spain/Mexico, 2018): An unapologetic character study, Belmonte is a mildly captivating portrait of an artist at crossroads. The titular character is a painter depressed over his broken family who finds himself unable to move forward. His hostility towards his surroundings and his lack of empathy for those who love him isolate him further.

The film does a good job digging into the main character’s inner life without having to spell it out for the audience. The insights, however, are not quite ground-breaking, but at least the execution is impeccable, thanks to a strong turn by Veiroj’s regular Gonzalo Delgado. The resolution is thoroughly unearned (the cinematic equivalent of “sleeping on it”), which at 75 minutes-length feels straight-up lazy. Two stars/planets/prairie dogs. Distribution: Unlikely.

Girls of the Sun (France, 2018): While the devastation in Syria is the most covered aspect of the ISIS offensive in the Middle East, the Kurdistan has suffered enormously at hands of the terrorist organization. Following the systematic killing of the male population, an increasing number of Kurdish women has joined the resistance, despite the fact the top rank treats them as cannon fodder.

Girls of the Sun follows the story of Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani, Patterson), a lawyer-turned-freedom fighter for whom personal trauma is the fuel that makes her a fearsome warrior. Her travails are covered by Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot), a journalist modeled after Marie Colvin for whom objectivity has long stopped being feasible.

While an undoubtedly compelling story, the film is broad and relies heavily in sentimentality, coming short more often than not. Director Eva Husson does succeed at conjuring some stunning visuals, but the final outcome feels disjointed. Two and a half planets. Distribution: It touches all the bases for an art-house run.

TIFF 2018 – Day 2: Les Salopes, Ever After

Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin.

Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin (Canada, 2018): Instead of making yet another coming-of-age-in-cottage-country movie (or, uh, Little Italy), the Quebecois film industry is exploring far more interesting territory, in this case, desire in women after 40. The lead of Les Salopes, Marie Claire (Brigitte Poupart, Les Affames), is a married-with-children dermatologist with a series of lovers on the side. Her capacity to separate emotions and sex is remarkable, until it all comes crashing down as those around her are not as “evolved” as her.

For most of its length, Les Salopes progresses unapologetically… to fold in the last twenty minutes. There is a lot to like about the film: Bold ideas about monogamy, a protagonist whose capacity to compartmentalize and sexual drive combine into some kind of pathos, and the use of regular bodies (as opposed to airbrushed supermodels) to depict intercourse. Yet the karmic denouement rings false. Solid effort though. Three and a half planets. Distribution: In QC, for sure. In SK, fingers crossed.

Ever After (Germany, 2018): Even though we have long reached the point of saturation, zombie movies keep on coming. Ever After is not particularly gory, but the character development is above average and the setting is original if not fully developed.

You know the drill: Virus turns most of mankind into flesh-eating maniacs. The few survivors not only battle zombies, but must fight to preserve their humanity, the usual. In Germany, only two cities stand: Weimar -which kills the undead on-sight- and Jena, which is looking for a cure. The only contact between the two towns is an unmanned train. Two women, a Linda Hamilton-type and one with flagrant PTSD, attempt to ride it all the way to Jena. Suffice to say, the trip doesn’t go to plan.

While short on scares, Ever After is more affecting than the standard zombie romp, and not only because we get to meet the two leads. Two-thirds in, the film takes a turn into allegoric territory, one in which Mother Nature is more than a figure of speech. The move is ballsy, not entirely successful, but doesn’t feel out of place either. Two and a half planets. Distribution: TBD, although I would be surprised if it doesn’t make it to one of the streaming services.

TIFF 2018 – Day 1: Let Me Fall, El Angel

Let Me Fall

Let Me Fall (Iceland/Finland/Germany, 2018): Who knew Icelandic movies could be so grim? (anybody who saw Under the Tree, for starters). Let Me Fall revolves around Magnea, a bright fifteen-year-old, who falls for the slightly older Stella. This attraction leads Magnea straight into addiction, a descent detailed to the most painful detail by the movie.

If you had any hopes Magnea would see the error of her ways, the movie quickly manages to bury them: We see glimpses of adult Magnea from early on and it’s not a pretty sight. The film steers clear from becoming misery porn by giving each major character considerable depth. Let Me Fall is a dark journey of the soul but one worth taken, although it may put you off from having children (or at the very least, dissuade you from free-range rearing). Four planets. Distribution: I hope so!

El Angel (Argentina, 2018): Based on the most “popular” criminal in Argentinian history (one who has been serving a life sentence for the last 45 years for a gamut of crimes and misdemeanors), El Angel is an entertaining riff on the lifestyle of the lawless and infamous, while coming short on insight. Carlitos (newcomer Lorenzo Ferro) is a baby-faced sociopath with a penchant for breaking and entering. His association with classmate Ramón (Chino Darín) and his ne’er-do-well father elevates his game, but Carlitos’ unpredictability threatens to derail the enterprise at every corner, particularly after he develops a crush on Ramón.

While the sequence of events that turned the maladjusted teen into Buenos Aires’ most wanted is fascinating, the character itself is one note throughout the entire movie. I’m positive even sociopaths learn something about what’s beneficial and what leads to certain doom. Two and a half prairie dogs. Distribution: Likely.