Toronto International Film Festival, Vanguard Section – Liz’s Review: ‘They Have Escaped’

Toronto International Film Festival, Vanguard SectionTheyHaveEscapedPoster

Sometimes we run from things; the past, the present, and the lies we tell ourselves. In Writer/Director J-P Valkeapää brings us They Have Escaped, a unique coming of age narrative about two kids on the run. Joni is a young man who goes AWOL on his military service, landing him a mandatory civil service stint at a live-in residency for wayward teens. Raisa is an unruly wild child who has been brandished too difficult to deal with by an uptight mother and ill father. Both are damaged souls. One, an introvert, the other, the very definition of extrovert. Together is run away from their lives and take off in a stolen car on the road to freedom. Along the way, they are met with emotional and physical challenges that were seemingly dismissed when they decided to venture onto the open road. Together they tackle each new day with courage, relentless spirit, and tenacity.

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J-P Valkeapää has created a world of harsh reality mixed with dreamlike flashes by both characters. These moments seem to be coping mechonisms for a past that haunts them. Each yearning to be loved and hell bent on creating a world that suits them, Raisa and Joni latch onto animalistic instincts to survive.

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The film is beautifully shot. Finland’s wooded backdrop is both a breathtaking setting for adventure as well as a terrifying slap in the face when things take a turn for the worse. Nature, in both the physical sense as well as the human sense, is represented flawlessly J-P Valkeapää‘s script. Teppo Manner (JONI) is incredibly unassuming and brings a elegant quiet to the screen. Roosa Söderholm (RAISA), is a firecracker. She emanates a passion and fills the space like a master. Surprisingly, both actors are practically brand new to film. They two have a lot to offer and I hope we see them again soon.

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They Have Escaped is one to catch this film festival season. Fair warning, (and perhaps SPOILER ALERT) the film does take a bit of a sadistic turn that seems a bit out of left field. That being said, the last three minutes are gorgeous, cinematic breath of fresh air.


 TIFF Public Screenings:

September 8, 9:45pm

September 10, 4:00pm

September 13, 10:00pm

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

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