REVIEW: The Card Counter [2021]

It’s a weight which can never be removed. William Tell (Oscar Isaac) doesn’t like to be noticed. Not because he’s a Swiss folk hero who proved his marksmanship by shooting an apple off his son’s head, but because his past is full of demons he’d just as soon leave behind during the daylight since the nightmares are coming while he sleeps either way. Card games are currently holding them at bay after an eight-year stint in Leavenworth. The counting systems he learned while in jail have made him practically unbeatable…

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REVIEW: Dear Evan Hansen [2021]

Just be yourself. A bad day—exacerbated by Connor Murphy’s (Colton Ryan) unchecked, diagnosed rage—has Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) leaving the motivational platitudes behind when writing a therapist-assigned letter to himself that can easily be interpreted as a suicide note. We know this because Connor fatefully steals it, folds it into a tiny square, and puts it into his pocket before killing himself. Since the self-addressed page had “Dear Evan Hansen” at the top and a non-descript “Yours, Me” at the bottom, the bereaved parents (Amy Adams‘ Cynthia and Danny Pino‘s…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Yi miao zhong [One Second] [2020]

This is my only chance. The assumption is that our unnamed protagonist (Yi Zhang) is about to steal the reels of film that have just been loaded onto a motorcycle headed for the next town’s screening. He hides in the shadows as the two men bringing them out decide to hit the bar next door for a drink before the driver takes off. Yi skulks closer to the satchels as they leave, moving towards the windows to see that they have sat down and occupied themselves with conversation. With that…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Zalava [2021]

Below the waist. The inhabitants of Zalava were never meant to stay in one place. Their ancestors were nomads and now they’ve become farmers. So where then did the demons come from? Were they always here waiting for settlers? Did their relatives bring the evil with them? Or has the restlessness in their bones from staying in one place for so long simply made them stir crazy to the point of needing those spirits to provide context for their anxieties? They admit to the sergeant (Navid Pourfaraj‘s Massoud) from the…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: El otro Tom [The Other Tom] [2021]

You never keep your promises. Tom (Israel Rodriguez) is an uncontrollable youth in school and at home. Is it because he has ADHD? Probably. Is it also because he lives in a volatile household with a single mother who has justifiable anger issues augmented by people (Tom’s father Julien doesn’t pay child support) and institutions (government, education, medical) constantly failing them? Definitely. While all these issues are present throughout Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo‘s (based on her novel) El otro Tom [The Other Tom], however, it’s a single aspect of…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Les oiseaux ivres [Drunken Birds] [2021]

I’m scared I’ll forget her. We start at the end—the end of a cartel. Men climb the walls to go inside the now abandoned estate, walking amongst paintings and sculptures before stripping naked to take a dip in the indoor swimming pool while a giant portrait of their unwitting (and now imprisoned) benefactor looks on. One decides to don a fur coat as he rifles through the papers sitting on the kingpin’s desk. He picks up a note and begins to read before discarding it out of boredom. The voice…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Kun Maupay Man It Panahon [Whether the Weather Is Fine] [2021]

People are murderous these days. The ambition behind Carlo Francisco Manatad‘s Kun Maupay Man It Panahon [Whether the Weather Is Fine] is undeniable. Set in the aftermath of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan (aka Super Typhoon Yolanda), the film opens on Miguel (Daniel Padilla) waking to the fact that there’s no longer a house surrounding him and his couch. More sleepwalking in disbelief than searching with desperation, he moves to find his mother (Charo Santos-Concio‘s Norma) just as his girlfriend (Rans Rifol‘s Andrea) finds him. Everywhere they go has been shattered to…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Silent Night [2021]

Tonight’s all about truth and love. The easiest way to make sure your child actors are up to swearing on-screen is casting your own. That’s exactly what first-time feature writer/director Camille Griffin does for her film Silent Night—and it’s with good reason. Art (Roman Griffin Davis) and twins Thomas (Gilby Griffin Davis) and Hardy (Hardy Griffin Davis) have made a pact with their parents (Keira Knightley‘s Nell and Matthew Goode‘s Simon) to say whatever comes to their mind without fear of punishment or retribution since they’re all going to die…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Costa Brava, Lebanon [2021]

I flushed hope down the toilet long ago. What can you do when your homeland is falling apart? The easy answer is stay or leave, but both options carry too much complexity to simply choose and be done. For starters, not everyone has that choice whether due to finances, family, or a myriad other possible reasons. And those who are able must dig deep within themselves to rationalize why. Do you leave because of greater opportunity? Do you stay because you want to be part of the solution? Or do…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Charlotte [2021]

The sad ones always feel more true. Similar to co-director Tahir Rana before tackling the project, I too had never heard of Charlotte Salomon before sitting down to watch it. This fact seems weird considering many hold her posthumous masterpiece Life? or Theater?: A Song-play as the first graphic novel. A pedigree like that shouldn’t be swept under the rug—especially not when you delve into her work’s content and begin understanding all she endured as a German Jew during World War II. You would think her name would be held…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: True Things [2021]

You’re my tribe. Kate (Ruth Wilson) is listless. She works a dead-end workers’ claim desk wherein her bosses are so redundant that they don’t think they’re doing their job unless they’re chastising their employees for not bringing in doctor notes. Her best friend Alison (Hayley Squires) is too busy with her kids to provide stimulating entertainment beyond a couple drinks at their local. And the only place she really has at her disposal to escape these doldrums is her parents’ home so Mum (Elizabeth Rider) can remind her about all…

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