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#TIFF20 Review: MLK/FBI (TIFF Docs)

September 16, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by Sam Pollard, the extensively researched documentary MLK/FBI sheds light on FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s obsessive quest to take down Martin Luther King Jr., viewing the non-violent civil rights leader as a threat to the national order.

Using the powers afforded to him at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hoover launched an advanced surveillance campaign against King, with the blessing of the Johnson administration. Through tapped phone lines, recording devices planted in hotel rooms, and men who were employed to secretly take photographs of him, the FBI successfully tracked King’s movements for several years before he was killed in 1968.

At first, the Bureau was trying to pin down connections to communism through King’s friend and advisor Stanley Levison. But they eventually focused their attention on the extramarital affairs that King was having, in an attempt to mount a character assassination campaign against the Nobel Peace Prize recipient. It’s fascinating to note that, as we are told in the film, Hoover was the more widely beloved figure in the country at the time while King was considered to be polarizing, opinions that have almost entirely flipped around in hindsight.

Pollard explores the intertwining histories of Hoover and King through voiceover interviews with subjects including David Garrow, whose book The FBI and Martin Luther King Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis provides the basis for the documentary. We also hear from King’s speechwriter Clarence B. Jones and fellow civil rights leader Andrew Young, who both bring fascinating insights to the film through their lived experience.

Keeping his subjects offscreen until the end, Pollard employs a mostly black and white visual aesthetic made up of archival footage from the 1950s and ’60s. The director also works in clips from films that were made about the FBI, including 1959’s The FBI Story, which helped sway public opinion in their favour. This is a dense film that offers a lot of information to take in, but it’s also a very interesting and important one. As an exploration of the surveillance state, and the use of informants being sent in to infiltrate social movements, MLK/FBI also has a lot of relevance to the modern age.

Public Screenings:

Tuesday, September 15th – 5:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Tuesday, September 15th – 5:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Friday, September 18th – 4:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

#TIFF20 Review: Summer of 85 (Special Presentations)

September 16, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

A swooning, tragic romance that unfolds on the coast of Normandy and is set against the perfect backdrop of the 1980s, director François Ozon’s queer melodrama Summer of 85 is a film that won’t work for everyone, but it really worked for me.

When we first meet teenaged protagonist Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) in the film, he is awaiting trial and reveals in voiceover that he has always been obsessed with death, telling us about a dead body that he knew when it was alive. When we first meet his love interest David (Benjamin Voisin), Alex informs us through narration that he will become the dead body. It’s certainly a more twisted version of the usual “meet cute,” turning this into as much of a potential murder mystery as it is a gay romance between two pretty French boys.

The two first meet when Alex is out sailing, and his boat capsizes, sending David to the rescue. The helpful, handsome stranger brings Alex back to his home, where David’s extroverted mother (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), who has no sense of boundaries, draws him a bath, happy that her boy has brought another friend home. From here, the two teenagers embark on a playful, sensual relationship. But we know that these are merely flashbacks, which leads to a sense of foreboding.

Based on the 1982 young adult novel Dance On My Grave by British author Aidan Chambers, Summer of 85 explores how jealousy and other forces come to tear the two lovers apart. The film also reveals deeper themes about storytelling, and the narratives that we project onto the people we love, ideas that are emboldened by the film’s own puzzle box structure which keeps us somewhat on edge.

Lefebvre and Voisin, both delivering breakout performances, have great chemistry together and make the scenes between Alexis and David wonderful to watch. The nostalgic, mid-’80s setting adds to the experience, immersing us in the clothes and music of the decade. The film features some great needle drops, including a magical moment involving headphones on the dance floor and the Rod Stewart song “Sailing.” It also looks gorgeous, having been shot on Super 16 film to give it a classic, cinematic look.

The mixed reviews that Summer of 85 has been getting are somewhat understandable, but I quite liked it. It’s melodramatic, yes, and over the top at times, leaning in to some of the elements of camp that are accepted in queer cinema. But just go with it, like I did, and let it sweep you away.

Benjamin Voisin and Félix Lefebvre in Summer of 85

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 13th – 9:00 PM at RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Thursday, September 17th – 9:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

#TIFF20 Review: Beans (Discovery)

September 16, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

A Mohawk girl comes of age against the backdrop of the Oka Crisis in Beans, a drama that reimagines the 1990 showdown between several levels of police and Indigenous land protectors from two Quebec Mohawk communities, who were trying to stop the town of Oka’s planned expansion of a golf course onto Native burial ground, from a child’s eye view.

Beans is the nickname given to Tekehentahkhwa (Kiawentiio), a twelve year old girl with a bright future ahead of her. But as the protests start and her community devolves into chaos, the relatively innocent life that she enjoys with her little sister (Violah Beauvais) and pregnant mother (Rainbow Dickerson) falls into disarray, and Beans starts to experience the racism and resentment of many white Quebecers first hand. She channels her confusion and anger at what is going on around her into hanging out with a group of tough older kids, sending her down a somewhat messy path as she tries to find her voice.

It’s an interesting idea to examine the impact that this tense standoff, which stretched on for three months throughout the summer of 1990, had on an adolescent girl still in the process of exploring her identity, and the results are solid if slightly mixed. The film serves as the feature directorial debut of Tracey Deer, a documentary filmmaker who was also the co-creator of the show Mohawk Girls, and she does show a level of confidence in her dramatization of the Oka Crisis itself.

Deer seamlessly blends archival TV news footage from the time with recreations of the protests that are staged with the feel of a thriller, and these are the most compelling parts of the film. But the coming of age story that it tells is somewhat predictable and clichéd, and it can feel like some of the air is being let out of the film when it stops focusing directly on the crisis. Still, Beans is a well directed first feature that cements Deer as a filmmaker to watch, and has enough stirring moments to make it worth seeing.

Violah Beauvais and Kiawentiio in Beans

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 13th – 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Sunday, September 13th – 12:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Blu-ray Review: Pretty in Pink

September 15, 2020

By John Corrado

John Hughes wrote but didn’t direct Pretty in Pink, the 1986 high school romantic comedy starring his frequent muse Molly Ringwald, which is a fact that often seems overlooked.

The directing duties on the film, which Paramount is releasing for the first time on Blu-ray, instead went to Howard Deutch, a former music video director and trailer editor who got on Hughes’s radar after cutting the trailer for the filmmaker’s breakout hit Sixteen Candles.

But despite the fact that Hughes didn’t sit in the director’s chair on Pretty in Pink, (though he still served as one of the film’s executive producers), his screenplay is a big part of why it is still remembered so fondly. And the film is viewed so thoroughly as part of his oeuvre, that the fact he didn’t actually direct it seems more like an interesting bit of trivia at this point.

The film follows Andie (Ringwald), a poor girl who makes her own clothes, refashioning items that she finds in thrift shops. She works in a record store under the tutelage of the eccentric Iona (Annie Potts), who serves as a sort of surrogate mother figure, absent one at home. When a cute rich guy named Blane (Andrew McCarthy), who goes to her school, comes into the shop and shows interest in her, Andie is smitten. This causes her best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) to grow jealous, as Blane’s snobbish rich friend Steff (James Spader) makes him feel embarrassed for dating a girl from the other side of town.

It’s interesting to watch Pretty in Pink again, and one of the biggest things that jumped out at me this time was that, while the film sets itself up as a love triangle, it also doesn’t really work as one. Despite Duckie’s supposed unrequited love for Andie, she never seems interested in him as more than a friend. A modern and arguably more interesting version of the story would surely have Duckie discovering that he is gay, and due to the flamboyancy of Cryer’s performance and costume choices, this seems like a pretty valid reading of the character.

It’s common knowledge at this point that, in the original version of the film, Andie actually did end up with Duckie, an outcome that for these reasons alone wouldn’t have really worked. The final scenes of the film had to be reshot following the disastrous response that the original ending got at an early test screening, forcing Hughes and Deutch to retool the film and do last minute reshoots so that Andie and Blane could end up together.

It’s interesting to note that Anthony Michael Hall, Hughes’s other frequent collaborator who co-starred with Ringwald in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, was initially offered the role of Duckie but turned it down. I think he would have had a very different take on the character, and one that may have actually sold the relationship angle between Duckie and Andie. With that said, Cryer’s performance has become iconic, including the scene where he dances and lip syncs to Otis Redding, and he does bring a very specific energy to the role.

The screenplay showcases Hughes’s perceptive ear for dialogue and the way teens speak, and themes that emerge throughout several of his other works are present here. Much of the film’s heart comes from the relationship between Andie and her working class father (Harry Dean Stanton), and Pretty in Pink is at its strongest when exploring classism and the shame that Andie feels for living in poverty. Ringwald delivers a likeable performance in the film, turning Andie into a sympathetic and relatable protagonist.

I will admit that I have never held Pretty in Pink in quite as high regard as the classic trio of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, which collectively represent the apex of not only Hughes’s career but also teen films in general. But this is still undoubtedly a classic of both the high school and romantic comedy genres, and one that is enjoyable to revisit. The soundtrack is also top notch, with Hughes assembling an excellent selection of songs from British new wave bands including Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, New Order, and The Psychedelic Furs, who provide the title track.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The film has been newly remastered from a 4K transfer, which was supervised by Deutch and looks great. The disc additionally includes two featurette, one old and one new.

Filmmaker Focus: Pretty in Pink (7 minutes, 38 seconds): Deutch reflects upon making the film, including his close working relationship with John Hughes, his favourite moments to shoot, and having to reshoot the ending.

The Lost Dance: The Original Ending (12 minutes, 15 seconds): This previously released bonus features finds the cast and crew reflect upon the original ending, including the reasons why it didn’t work and the logistics of bringing everybody back for the reshoot. They only had a day to reshoot it, and that’s what we see in the final film.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1 minute, 27 seconds): The original trailer for the film, which is built around Cryer’s iconic dance scene and sort of makes him seem like the lead character in the movie.

Isolated Score Track: Accessible under the “settings” tab, this feature allows us to watch the film with music only for the first time ever.

Pretty in Pink is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 96 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: September 15th, 2020

Blu-ray Review: Roman Holiday

September 15, 2020

By John Corrado

Audrey Hepburn received five Oscar nominations throughout her acting career, but the only film that she ever won for was Roman Holiday, which also happened to be her first starring role in a motion picture.

It also happens to be one of my absolute favourite performances of hers, helping turn her into the screen icon that we all know and love. And the film itself, which Paramount is now releasing for the first time ever on Blu-ray this week, is just as delightful as it ever was.

Directed by William Wyler, the 1953 film casts Hepburn as a European princess who is bored with the royal life and tired of the stifling responsibilities that come with it. While on official business in Italy, Hepburn’s Princess Ann escapes from her room, falls asleep on a park bench, and ends up meeting Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an American reporter living in Rome who was meant to interview her.

Princess Ann keeps her identity a secret, and so does Bradley, who senses a major opportunity in doing an exclusive story about the missing princess, enlisting the help of his cameraman friend Irving (Eddie Albert) to take pictures. The princess and the reporter form a close bond as the two of them spend a carefree day playing tourist throughout Rome. Hepburn is a joy to watch, bringing an innocence to the role of Princess Ann that is quite endearing. Her and Peck have delightful chemistry together, bouncing off each other in a really playful and fun way. The film features some wonderful bits of slapstick humour, as well as a swooning romanticism.

The film received a total of ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It won three, including for Edith Head’s wonderful costumes, and Dalton Trumbo’s pitch perfect screenplay. Trumbo was originally credited under the pseudonym Ian McLellan Hunter, due to him being blacklisted for refusing to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee during their investigation into communist influences in Hollywood. This release marks the first time that Trumbo has been properly credited, both with a “story by” credit on the packaging and in the opening credits of the film itself.

While many films of the time were shot on studio backlots, Wyler insisted that Roman Holiday be made in Italy, and it became one of the first studio pictures to be filmed on location in post-war Europe. Shot entirely on location in Rome, the sights and sounds of the historic city provide a stunning backdrop for the story, allowing the film to function as a sort of travelogue. The black and white cinematography by Henri Alekan and Franz F. Planer remains beautiful to look at, especially on Blu-ray.

What more can I really say about Roman Holiday? Featuring two old school movie stars at their most loveable, it ranks among the greatest romantic comedies of all time, set against the spectacular backdrop of Rome in the 1950s. It’s a delightful and incredibly charming film in every single way, building towards a poignant and bittersweet final scene.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The film has been newly remastered from a 4K film transfer. According to the press release, the original negative, which was processed at a local film lab in Rome, was badly scratched and damaged, so a Dupe Negative was made. For this Blu-ray release, the film was digitally restored using the Dupe Negative and a Fine Grain element. In addition, the disc includes one new featurette, along with several previously released bonus features.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday (6 minutes, 59 seconds): This new featurette finds film critic and historian Leonard Maltin discussing the legacy of the film, touching on the history of the production and the careers of its stars. It’s a very engaging and informative piece.

Behind the Gates: Costumes (5 minutes, 31 seconds): Paramount archivist Randall Thropp takes us through some of the iconic costumes in the Paramount archives. Featurette from 2008.

Rome With a Princess (8 minutes, 57 seconds): A narrator takes us through the plot of the film, and the historic locations around Rome where the scenes take place. Featurette from 2008.

Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years (29 minutes, 55 seconds): An overview of the films that Hepburn would star in during her time at Paramount, including Sabrina, War and Peace, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Paris When It Sizzles, and My Fair Lady. Featurette from 2008.

Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist (11 minutes, 55 seconds): An interesting look at Dalton Trumbo’s career as a screenwriter, how he was put on the Hollywood Blacklist as an alleged communist, and his unwavering support of the First Amendment. Featurette from 2008.

Paramount in the ’50s (9 minutes, 33 seconds): A breakdown of the many classic films that Paramount Pictures put out in the decade of the 1950s. Featurette from 2000.

Remembering Audrey (12 minutes, 12 seconds): Hepburn’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer and companion Robert Wolders reflect on her life, from her childhood in Holland during the war, to her career as a movie star, and post-film work as an ambassador for Unicef. Featurette from 2008.

Theatrical Trailers: A trio of original trailers for the film, which provide an interesting glimpse at how it was marketed, both during its initial release as well as for a theatrical re-release to capitalize on the success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer (1 minute, 48 seconds)

Original Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 12 seconds)

Theatrical Re-Release Trailer (2 minutes, 28 seconds)

Galleries: A collection of four photo galleries made up of still images, that you can click through using your remote.

Production

The Movie

Publicity

The Premiere

Roman Holiday is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 118 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: September 15th, 2020

#TIFF20 Review: Inconvenient Indian (TIFF Docs)

September 14, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Inspired by Thomas King’s autobiographical 2012 book The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, the documentary Inconvenient Indian takes a very unconventional approach to adapting the source material. Using King’s book as the jumping off point, director Michelle Latimer has instead crafted a collage of images and sounds to explore centuries of colonization in its many forms, and the history of First Nations representation on screen.

The film finds King, who provides the voiceover narration, being driven around Toronto in a taxi, with the driver (Gail Maurice) being a traditional “trickster” figure dressed as a coyote. King is dropped off at the Fox Theatre, where he settles in with a crowd of Indigenous people to watch stereotypical portrayals of Native people play out on the screen. From here, the film goes off in multiple directions, as King’s traditional storytelling provides a loose narrative backbone.

Latimer mixes elements of music, dance, and visual art to show how a new generation are reclaiming Native stories and traditional customs. The film illustrates this through appearances from the musical group A Tribe Called Red, the visual artist Kent Monkman, and the filmmakers Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Nyla Innuksuk. We also go out onto the ice with a hunter in Iqaluit as he stalks a seal, providing food for his community.

It’s an unconventional approach to documentary filmmaking, eschewing expert interviews and talking heads for something much looser and more free-flowing. The film is ultimately as much a companion piece to King’s book as it is it’s own thing, offering a thought provoking exploration of culture and identity that redefines the rules for both literary adaptations and documentaries.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 12th – 4:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Saturday, September 12th – 5:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Sunday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Thursday, September 17th – 5:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

#TIFF20 Review: Another Round (Special Presentations)

September 14, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest collaboration between Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg and actor Mads Mikkelsen, following their Oscar-nominated 2012 drama The Hunt, Another Round is a well acted film about drinking and the impact, both good and bad, that alcohol can have on people’s lives.

Martin (Mikkelsen) is a high school history teacher in Denmark who has lost his edge, which has led to complaints from his students that he isn’t teaching the material thoroughly enough. While out for dinner with three of his colleagues, Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), they get to talking about the Norwegian philosopher Finn Skårderud, and his hypothesis that people have a 0.05% deficiency of alcohol in their blood.

Skårderud’s belief is that people are at optimum performance level when drinking just enough to make up that amount, prompting Martin and his colleagues to conduct an experiment of their own. Each of the men will drink throughout the day to keep their blood alcohol level at exactly 0.05%, while following Ernest Hemingway’s rules to never drink after eight in the evening or on weekends. And lo and behold, the experiment actually sort of works at first.

Martin’s classes become rousing celebrations of drunken men throughout history, including Winston Churchill whom he theorizes was drunk while winning the war, and he seems more engaged at home as well. But there are also dire consequences. Vinterberg has described the film as a sort of ode to alcohol, and while he doesn’t completely shy away from showing the potentially dangerous aspects of it either, I’m also not sure how deep the film really goes.

At first, it admittedly seems a bit vapid and shallow, and the moral of the film amounts to a fairly predictable “alcohol is fine until it’s not” message. But as Another Round goes along, it develops into a more engaging study of middle aged men looking for an escape from the monotony of their lives, and perhaps to relive their youth, through the bottle. The film features some great drunk acting from its ensemble cast, with Mikkelsen delivering a characteristically solid performance. The results are entertaining and a bit horrifying, building towards a memorable final scene.

Mads Mikkelsen in Another Round

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 12th – 9:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Saturday, September 12th – 9:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Sunday, September 13th – 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Sunday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Saturday, September 19th – 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

#TIFF20 Review: One Night in Miami (Gala Presentations)

September 14, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Built around a vital and exciting conversation between four Black icons, One Night in Miami is one of the best movies of the year. The majority of the the film is set on the night of February 25th, 1964, in the hours after young boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) – prior to changing his name to Muhammad Ali – has been crowned Heavyweight Champion of the world.

To celebrate, Cassius goes back to the Hampton House Motel to spend the night with his friends who came to watch the fight; activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and football player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). This historic meeting between the four men, which took place in real life and has been brilliantly dramatized onscreen, is exciting to watch unfold.

The meat of the film comes from the conversations they have in that hotel room, and what ensues is an incredible discussion about race in America, and whether or not an artist has the responsibility to use their voice. In some of the film’s best moments, the two most opposing members of the group, Malcolm X and Sam Cooke, clash over the best approach to advancing the Civil Rights movement, and it’s a conversation that resonates far beyond the film.

The film is directed by Regina King, who recently won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk, and she turns in an incredibly confident directorial debut. The backbone of the film is a powerful script by Kemp Powers, who adapts his own stage play for the screen. The dialogue is crisp and sharp, with things really starting to pop during the arguments these men have, leading to many memorable and moving exchanges throughout the film.

The four actors all build upon and elevate each other’s performances with their distinct characterizations of these iconic historical figures. The whole ensemble is great, with Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke delivering two of my favourite performances of 2020. The film is set to an excellent jazz score by musician Terence Blanchard, and the Sam Cooke songs “Chain Gang” and “A Change is Gonna Come,” beautifully covered by Odom Jr., are used brilliantly in two of the film’s most stirring moments.

The film takes place in 1964, and is based on a play from 2013, but One Night in Miami feels like it could have been written about this summer, offering a powerful discussion about what it means to be a Black man in America. It’s an engaging and extremely well acted film that, at its best, is positively electric in how it showcases the power of performance and the spoken word.

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 11th – 7:45 PM at Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView

Sunday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Wednesday, September 16th – 4:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

#TIFF20 Review: Nomadland (Gala Presentations)

September 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

As a portrait of poverty in post-recession America, and the people who were left behind by the 2008 economic crash, the film Nomadland, which was just awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is something special. It’s a work of incredible empathy that lets us see people who are rarely seen, those with no fixed address who call the road their home.

The film follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a modern nomad who has been living out of her van since the gypsum mine in Empire, Nevada where she worked with her late husband got shut down, and the town around it ceased to exist. Now her life consists of taking menial jobs, and driving from state to state as the seasons change. When we first meet her in the film, she is working in an Amazon warehouse, and living out of her vehicle, which she gets an employee discount to park on the lot.

McDormand delivers a transfixing performance as Fern. The camera often lingers on her deeply expressive face, silently revealing the emotions that are swirling through the head of her closed off character, who starts to open up as the film goes along. Fern meets and bonds with other nomads along her journey, including a man (David Strathairn) who is also living on the road. While Strathairn and McDormand are trained actors, the film also finds Fern interacting with a cast of characters who, in a brilliant creative choice, are played by real life nomads including Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells.

This adds a sense of authenticity and realism to the film that can’t be manufactured. Shot over five months in five different states, Nomadland is masterfully directed by filmmaker Chloe Zhao, who also wrote and edited the film. The cinematography by Joshua James Richards is often stunning, with beautifully composed images of the sparse Western landscapes. The film’s music is also very moving, including some lovely piano compositions by Ludovico Einaudi.

There are echoes of Terrence Malick and Kelly Reichardt in the film’s style and visual language, which is very high praise indeed. As much as Nomadland is about the proverbial death of the American Dream, it’s also about a different way of life, and the film tells a touching story about going down the road and seeing where the journey takes you. It’s an incredibly powerful film that is filled plenty of beautifully captured little moments along the way that continue to linger long afterwards.

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 11th – 9:15 PM at RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place

Saturday, September 12th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

#TIFF20 Review: Wolfwalkers (Special Events)

September 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The latest feature from Cartoon Saloon and co-directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, the same creative team behind The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers is another engaging and beautifully stylized animated film from the Irish studio.

The film, which draws upon Irish folklore, is set in the county of Kilkenny in the year 1650, during England’s colonization of Ireland. The main character is Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey), the daughter of an English hunter (Sean Bean), who has been hired by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (Simon McBurney) to kill all of the wolves outside of the walled city, so the forest can be cut down and the land developed.

But Robyn, herself an aspiring hunter, has her perspective changed when she meets a young girl named Mebh (Eva Whittaker). Mebh is a wolfwalker, who has the ability to take on the form of a wolf, and a close friendship forms between the two girls. This unlikely friendship provides the heart of the film, and it is quite endearing to watch develop, with the two young leads Kneafsey and Whittaker delivering fully engaged vocal performances.

The film serves as another eye-popping artistic achievement from Moore and Stewart. The story unfolds through wonderfully illustrative animation that recalls the works of Studio Ghibli, and Wolfwalkers is quite confident on a stylistic level, including some interesting uses of split screens and changing aspect ratios. It very much feels like a folktale, and there are elements of Disney and Pixar in the storytelling, with the film at times recalling an Irish version of Brave.

It’s worth pointing out that, while this is the only animated feature at this year’s festival, it stands out as a definite highpoint for the year in terms of animation. It serves as a wonderful companion piece to The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, completing an unofficial trilogy of sorts, and fans of those two films are going to love it.

Mebh (Eva Whittaker) and Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) in Wolfwalkers

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 12th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

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