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#TIFF14 Reviews: The Price We Pay, In Her Place, The Valley Below, We Were Wolves

September 4, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

The 39th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival starts tonight with the world premiere of David Dobkin’s legal drama The Judge, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.  The film kicks off eleven days of movies that will be playing in the city, including the usual juxtaposition between some of the biggest Oscar contenders and the smallest foreign pictures.

But despite the new requirement that all films playing over the first weekend have to be world premieres, not all of the exciting events cost ridiculous amounts of money.  A section of King Street will be closed to traffic this weekend, to make way for free concerts and art installations.

The festival has also dubbed tomorrow Bill Murray Day, with free screenings of Stripes, Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters taking place at the Lightbox, leading up to the world premiere of St. Vincent at Princess of Wales in the evening.

I’ve spent the last two weeks screening films and have already seen a total of ten, and have plans to see about a dozen more throughout the festival, so all in all there’s going to be lots of good stuff to talk about over the next little while.  Below are my thoughts on four with Canadian connections, and please come back on Saturday for my reviews of the hotly anticipated films Nightcrawler and Pride.  Now have a great festival, everyone!

The Price We Pay: Director Harold Crooks turns his attention to the subject of technically legal offshore tax havens in The Price We Pay.  Through interviews with economists and different experts, the film provides a thorough look at how rich companies and multimillionaires are keeping billions of dollars from the world’s economy, by stashing the money overseas and outside of government reach.  The largely talking heads approach isn’t overly cinematic, and the main audience for this sometimes dry film might seem limited to those already interested in economics.  But The Price We Pay is still an informative and well put together documentary on an important subject, that is densely packed with thought provoking research and ideas.

Friday, September 5th – 5:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 3
Sunday, September 7th – 9:30 PM @ AGO Jackman Hall

In Her Place: The characters in Canadian director Albert Shin’s South Korean drama In Her Place are nameless, and the majority of the story takes place at a rural farmhouse, but the complex situation at the centre of the story is compelling to watch unfold.  The film opens with a husband (Kim Kyung-Ik) and wife (Yoon Da-Kyung) arriving at the countryside property of a woman (Kil Hae-Yeon) and her teenaged daughter (Ahn Ji-Hye).  We slowly discover that the girl is pregnant, and the couple plans to secretly adopt the unborn child, shamefully hiding the fact that they can’t have a child of their own.  But this already unique situation, involving three women bound by strict tradition, grows increasingly more layered and complex throughout the very well acted In Her Place.  The result is a transfixing drama that unfolds with a quietly simmering sense of intensity, building towards a shocking and disturbing conclusion.

Saturday, September 6th – 2:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Tuesday, September 9th – 3:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

The Valley Below: First time feature director Kyle Thomas shows promise, but The Valley Below is a film that somehow manages to feel both mundane and overreaching at the same time.  The story is divided into four separate parts, introducing us to pregnant teenager Kate (Mikaela Cochrane), struggling singer-songwriter Warren (Kris Demeanor), lonely taxidermist Gordon (Stephen Bogaert), and police officer Barry (Alejandro Rae) who serves as the guardian of their sleepy Alberta town.  These four stories come together in subtle and ultimately tragic ways, but The Valley Below still seems loose limbed and underdeveloped, not delving deep enough into or spending much time with any of the characters for us to be truly invested in them.  The film ultimately becomes a depressing melodrama, but we can at least be thankful for some nice cinematography of the sweeping natural landscapes, and a good soundtrack courtesy of a diverse group of Canadian musicians.

Sunday, September 7th – 9:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, September 8th – 8:30 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2
Friday, September 12th – 2:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

We Were Wolves: After their father dies, Nick (Peter Mooney) and his estranged older brother Danny (Steve Cochrane) reunite for an autumn weekend at their old Kawartha Lakes cottage.  The two siblings couldn’t be more different; Nick now has a young family of his own, while Danny is still drifting through life as a struggling musician.  But through encounters with older neighbour Kathleen (Lunda Boyd), they are forced to confront their differences and come to terms with past secrets.  Although the story sometimes treads familiar ground, first time feature director Jordan Canning has delivered a very well made and beautifully shot homegrown drama in We Were Wolves.  With believably written characters, who come alive through the solidly naturalistic performances of Peter Mooney and Steve Cochrane, this is an enjoyably low key film that features some touchingly real moments.

Tuesday, September 9th – 9:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Wednesday, September 10th – 8:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 13th – 5:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 4

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