REVIEW: Ut og stjæle hester [Out Stealing Horses] [2019]

I’ll be damned. Tragedy strikes forty years after moving to Sweden and the loss is so profound that Trond (Stellan Skarsgård) discovers it difficult to continue on as before. When your life is changed so fully and abruptly, a desire to “pick up the pieces” very often pales in comparison to simply leaving them behind. Gone was his tether to the city and connection to his possessions. Gone was his sense of home itself. So he decides to leave and find another in the desolate countryside of Norway. Trond escapes…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Håp [Hope] [2019]

What do we tell the kids? Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) was married with three children when Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) met him. She didn’t want to fall in love, but twenty years and three more kids later show that’s exactly what happened. When Anja raised their babies, Tomas worked—a lot. When it was time for her to go back to work, she did too—a lot. Both alternated their career-motivated traveling so one could stay home and watch the family, a promise to be present at night with the kids honored by…

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TIFF18 REVIEW: Blindsone [Blind Spot] [2018]

Remember to breathe. The boldness of Tuva Novotny to choose to make her directorial debut a one-shot film of harrowing emotion cannot be understated. Her Blindsone [Blind Spot] takes us through the wringer as tragedy befalls a small, (seemingly) happy family without warning. These characters are distraught, confused, and falling to pieces as ambulances race and patience is tested before discovering new insights that may only provide more questions. And Novotny fearlessly traverses each new dramatic impulse, moving the camera from one to the other so we can be a…

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TIFF18 REVIEW: Føniks [Phoenix] [2018]

It has to be my turn sometime. If our best laid plans are said to often go awry, what happens to the ones we hastily make in desperation? Writer/director Camilla Strøm Henriksen looks to supply an answer to that very question with her feature debut Føniks [Phoenix] because desperation is all young Jill (Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin) has left. Her fourteenth birthday is just days away and yet she returns home from school to see the beginnings of a celebration abandoned and her mother Astrid (Maria Bonnevie) asleep in bed. Knowing…

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REVIEW: Thelma [2017]

Jesus Satan. The moment you leave home for college is the moment your parents say, “Have fun, but don’t lose who you are in the process.” It’s a worthwhile sentiment that we often take for granted as an implicit notion that we are who we will remain despite embarking on a journey full of unknown responsibilities, freedoms, and dangers. How can we truly know our identity when we’ve yet to cultivate one on our own? How much of that “who you are” is actually “who we want you to be”…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Skyggenes Dal [Valley of Shadows] [2017]

“What we don’t understand scares us” Six year-old Aslak (Adam Ekeli) lives a quiet life with his single mother Astrid (Kathrine Fagerland) in a rural town adjacent to farmland and a mountaintop forest. He’s too young to understand all that’s happening around him—especially considering he’s generally told to keep away from the adults when they’re speaking—but he knows enough to gauge the strained atmosphere and heavy emotion growing. So he looks through keyholes and gazes out windows, everything he sees simultaneously meaningful and yet without meaning. When things get too…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Hva vil folk si [What Will People Say] [2017]

“You haven’t done anything wrong” The Toronto International Film Festival synopsis calls Iram Haq‘s latest film Hva vil folk si [What Will People Say] an “empathetic story of family, community, and culture.” I would call it straight up social horror made scarier when you discover that it was partly inspired by the artist’s own life. That festival description had me anticipating a road to catharsis wherein a culture clash between strictly conservative Pakistani Muslim values and a more liberal European lifestyle would force young Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) and her parents…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: Pyromanen [Pyromaniac] [2016]

“You can be whatever you want to be” Going in with no expectations besides the recent news that the film had been shortlisted for Norway’s 2017 Oscar selection, director Erik Skjoldbjærg‘s Pyromanen [Pyromaniac] could not have delivered a better start to get me ready. Using extended camera movements to capture subtle detail from a car driving up to the older woman’s look of panic inside the house as she searches for her husband with ominous words, “He’s here.” I was enraptured. Glass breaks and fire bursts out from door to…

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TIFF15 REVIEW: Fuglehjerter [Bird Hearts] [2015]

“I thought I’d go all in” Ah the quarter-life crisis. Turning twenty-six and finding you’re still at university and pretty much ignored by everyone in your life when compared to a younger brother away at a prestigious school and already published to boot. What should be Benjamin’s (André Sørum) day becomes just another family get-together, one with distractions, differing tastes, and alternative priorities leaving him wanting. Everyone seeks to know what Tobias (Steinar Klouman Hallert) has been up to, each busy fawning over little Lucy baking a cake to see…

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TIFF11 REVIEW: Oslo, 31. August [Oslo, August 31st] [2011]

“I want you to understand” Memory and nostalgia—these are the things Joachim Trier sought when creating his dark, hopeful, and depressing love letter to his hometown. Rather than use that word, however, he made a point in his Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival to call it the place he was born. Every city in the world is remembered by its citizens and ex-pats, they reminiscence about good times, how they felt, or how they miss it. The opening to Oslo, 31. august [Oslo, August 31st] is a collection…

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REVIEW: Trolljegeren [TrollHunter] [2010]

“Does anyone here believe in God or Jesus?” Forget the fairy tales. This is what Hans (Otto Jespersen) says in deadpan to the young college students that decide to follow him around. All of their giggles and winking smirks toward their camera at the mention of trolls only make this hardened man want to tell them the truth more. He has been at it too long, has been thrown around and clawed at too often, and the pay simply sucks. Towing the company line until he no longer can, Hans…

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