Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland play a close knit married couple heading off on a last minute vacation, without telling their meddling children. The board their trusty RV The Leisure Seeker and head off from New England to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home in Florida Keys, and fulfil; his lifelong wish. There’s urgency to the mission; he’s showing signs of debilitating dementia and the she’s dying. They argue, cajole and reminisce, but her patience grows short. Because of his unpredictability they get into serious scrapes, one requiring Dame Helen to get out her rifle and threaten a couple of would be thieves. And he drives off leaving her in a restaurant, and then mistakes her for a mistress he’d had during her pregnancy. Its gut wrenching and funny and frustrating – these veteran performers invite us in but refuse to manipulate us. And it’s beautiful to see them appreciate things they never made time to know. The idea of exploration and wish fulfilment is one thing, but their fear of mortality hangs over darkly.
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Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot paints a portrait of grieving Israeli parents who learn their soldier son has died in the line of duty. We know little about the state of their marriage before they get the terrible news, but watch it disintegrate quickly. The films divided into three chapters, starting at the family home as soldiers arrive with the devastating news. It moves to a remote desert border checkpoint where their son is stationed. Little happens until one night when car full of teens comes by. A simple tragic misunderstanding knocks Jonathan’s world off its axis. Meanwhile his parents struggle with an incredible update about what happened to him. The film moves slowly and deliberately and builds to a stunning climax, as the idea of divisive politics and the waste of lives exasperates. Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler and Yonatan Shiray deliver the goods.
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The fascinating documentary Love, Cecil by Lisa Immordino Vreeland pays homage to a one –of-a-kind man, a legend who helped define style of the last century. He was a self-taught fashion photographer, model, actor, illustrator writer and bon vivant connected to the biggest bold type names of society and culture until his death in 1980. He was the Royal photographer for generations and Vogue magazines lifeblood, Determined at a young age to “live in a cloud”; Beaton became a leading player in the Hollywood dream factory. Openly gay, he loved Greta Garo but she turned down his marriage proposal. Personal, witty, provocative and hugely entertaining, his life wasn’t easy but it was fabulous. Rupert Everett narrates.
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Moscow 1953 and the Marxist-Leninist dictator Joseph Stalin drops dead. What follows in the wicked black farce The Death of Stalin a sharp satire on official dysfunction and the race to grab power featuring completely incompetent but desperately ambitious cronies. BTW take a look at an essay on Stalin’s personality. Remind you of anyone?
The temperamentally unsuitable Georgy Malenkov, the upstart Nikita Khrushchev and the dangerous secret police Chief Lavrentiy Beria will do whatever it takes but these dunderheads can’t strategize their ways out of a paper bag. And meanwhile no one’s running the shop, Russia. The cast handles the three ring circus beautifully and includes Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor. It’s based on the comic book by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin.
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Hulu and Super Channel have launched a four part story about the disappearance of a child in National Treasure: Kiri. A young black girl about to leave her white foster home is abducted and murdered. Sara Lancashire plays the case worker assigned to Kiri who loses her job when after letting the child visit her biological family without supervision before her disappearance. Not about to let the girl’s death go, she launches her own investigation using unconventional methods and her instinct for human behaviour. Media focus and her inability to find resolution drive her to drink. Meanwhile Kiri’s white foster family is behaving strangely as police and media zero in. Honestly, no one writes series like the Brits and this one is terrific. It looks at white privilege, racism, the foster care system and bureaucracy.
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The 12th annual Canadian Film Fest gets underway at Scotiabank Theatre on the 20th offering ten independent features twenty shorts, half of which are made by women. The festival opens with Jackie English’s Becoming Burlesque stars Shiva Negar as a young Muslim woman who finds her voice as a burlesque artist. CFF closes with the Canadian premiere of Jeremy LaLonde’s comedy The Go-Getters about two addicts who join forces to rip off the rest of the world. Alfons Adtuyi’s Love Jacked stars Keith David, Amber Stevens, Michael Epps, Lyriq Bent, and Nicole Lyn and is about a woman who defies her traditional father, goes to Africa and comes back engaged. Caley Wilson’s suspenseful drama Luba looks at a women’s struggle to survive an out of control partner. The Drawer Boy by Arturo Perez Torres which brings together a city actor and two farmers in Huron County makes its Toronto premiere. It’s based on Michael Healey’s play and stars Richard Clarkin and Stuart Hughes. A Swingers Weekend from Jon E. Cohen stars Mia Kirshner, Erin Karpluk and Jonas Chernick about an adventurous get together complicated by the arrival of a third couple. Prodigals from award winning director Michelle Ouellet follows a man who returns home to attend his friend’s trial and is revealed as less than he presents himself to be. www.canfilmfest.ca
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI