TIFF 22 short film review: Sophy Romvari’s ‘IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS’ pulls the run out from underneath you with its intimacy.


IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS

Filmmaker Sophy Romvari features a young woman named Becca Willow Moss as she embarks on a unique journey of self-discovery with others. IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS has the audience eavesdropping on phone conversations. The voices on the other end of the line each desire something different. The men seem to seek romance, while others lean more sexual. Her other calls engage an entirely different demographic; the elderly. These chats revolve around memory, singing, reassurance, and pure love.

Becca has a knack for discovering what motivates each person. She describes herself to people as a multi-faceted artist. A label I covet myself. She is the most genuine and gentle communicator. She is giving and authentic. I remain completely enamored by her.

The cinematography is 90% comprised of closeup shots of mannerisms, objects in the room, Becca’s hair and clothes, and her face as she speaks and listens to those she calls. Combined with the fact that the 11-minute run has us solely inside Becca’s apartment lends to the intimacy already created by her words. It’s a brilliant choice, frankly.

Romvari had me thoroughly engrossed from the very beginning. I could have easily watched a feature-length version of Becca and her callers. Therein lies the irony of IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS. As we get comfortable with the narrative structure, Romvari steps in, via voice only, and asks Becca what she thinks the project’s meaning might be. Her answer takes you aback. While we enjoy the film for unconsciously selfish reasons, Becca has her own motivation that I did not expect. Undoubtedly one of the best short films at TIFF22. It’s about the universal need for human connection. Everyone needs someone to listen. Everyone needs to feel seen.


Short Cuts Programme 06.
Sophy Romvari
CANADA | 2022 | English
11 minutes


Fri, Sep 16
IN-PERSON
Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
5:30pm


Sat, Sep 17
IN-PERSON
Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
9:05am


 

TIFF22 review: Midnight Madness selection ‘THE PEOPLE’S JOKER’ is a trans coming-of-age tale with eye-popping visuals and laughs to spare.

THE PEOPLE’S JOKER

An aspiring clown grappling with her gender identity combats a fascistic caped crusader, in writer-director Vera Drew’s uproariously subversive queer coming-of-age origin story.


Vera Drew‘s TIFF22 Midnight Madness feature, THE PEOPLE’S JOKER, is a visual explosion of mixed media deliciousness. Creatively autobiographical, watching the film is like taking ecstasy while simultaneously receiving an important message. Drew’s script overflows with biting satire about gender politics, comedy, and emotional healing. While we’re busy laughing and wondering how she got away with parodying DC, Disney, and other trademarks, she slyly exposes cyclical and deep-seated trauma.

 

I have to mention Nathan Faustyn by name. He plays Penguin with an unfiltered edge. Faustyn has incredible comic timing, and his chemistry with Vera is perfect. I want to see more of him in anything. Vera Drew speaks truth to power in a raw and undeniably hilarious manner. The writing is fearless, the performance is vulnerable, and her vision as a filmmaker is endlessly engrossing and quirky.

I adored the “bleeping” to avoid deadnaming. It was a quietly powerful device allowing Drew to address it head-on later in the film. Keep your ears sharp for voice cameos from Tim Heidecker and Bob Odenkirk. The original music is super catchy. Stick around through the credits for some extra treats. You’ll finally realize how expansive THE PEOPLE’S JOKER is. Each visual aspect comes from a different creative’s brilliant mind. This wild fandom mash-up is part confessional therapy session and another part cult coming-of-age indie.


United States of America, 2022
English
WORLD PREMIERE
92 minutes
Director
Vera Drew
Cast
Vera Drew, Vera Drew, Lynn Downey, Kane Distler, Nathan Faustyn, David Liebe Hart, Christian Calloway, Griffin Kramer, Phil Braun, Tim Heidecker, Ember Knight, Sarah Sherman
Cinematography
Nate Cornett
Editing
Vera Drew, Vera Drew
Executive Producers
Lindsay Cohen, Brian Alkerton, Bee Frederickson, Leo Kovalik, Jr., Johnee Reyna
Producer
Joey Lyons
Production Company
Haunted Gay Ride Productions
Production Designers
Laura Wheeler, Courtney McIntosh, Amy Smoot, Yesi Rego, Lauren Kezon
Screenplay
Vera Drew, Bri LeRose
Sound
Jake Robinson
Original Score
Justin Krol, Quinn Scharber, Ember Knight, Danni Rowan, Elias and the Error

TIFF 22 review: ‘CHARCOAL’ is a fiery and biting feature debut from writer-director Carolina Markowicz.

CHARCOAL

In her brilliant feature-film debut, writer-director Carolina Markowicz brings TIFF22 audiences a one-of-a-kind dramedy in CHARCOAL (CARVÃO). Irene and Jairo find themselves barely scraping from the money earned from their Charcoal factory, saddled with an ailing father and precocious 9-year-old son, Jean. Suddenly offered money to hide an Argentinian drug kingpin, things get weird for everyone. 

Rômulo Braga plays Jairo with passion, but not for his wife. Jairo is a miserable soul. Braga brings a slovenly and combative manner that breaks in private. 

How do you keep a nine-year-old from spilling the beans? Jean Costa brings the perfect amount of sass to the role of young Jean. His performance is so natural you might think he’s improvising each line. 

Cesar Bordon is Juan. His confusion only matched by his oblivious, holier-than-thou nature. His scenes with Costa are incredibly amusing. But it is his feisty chemistry with Jinkings that you’ll remember most.

Maeve Jinkings plays Irene with slick confidence and a fearless attitude. She is never intimidated by Juan’s presence. On the contrary, she sees him as a nuisance and a necessary means to an end. Jinkings casual delivery under pressure makes Markowicz’s screenplay shine. It’s a real wow.

I was entirely unprepared for the dark humor in this undeniably genius script. You’ll find yourself smirking as Juan prepares for his unexpected pitstop. After his arrival, the hilarity ensues with the utmost seriousness. Almost every scene drips with sarcasm, and it is glorious. One of the best films at TIFF22, CHARCOAL boasts twist after twist. Part satire, part social commentary, do not miss it.


Brazil, Argentina, 2022
Portuguese, Spanish
WORLD PREMIERE
107 minutes
Director
Carolina Markowicz
Cast
Maeve Jinkings, Cesar Bordon, Jean Costa, Romulo Braga, Camila Mardila, Pedro Wagner, Aline Marta
Cinematography
Pepe Mendes


TIFF 22 review: Bill Nighy’s glorious performance in ‘LIVING’ sends a universal message of love and kindness.

LIVING

Director Oliver Hermanus brings TIFF22 audiences LIVING, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru. This beautifully life-affirming script from Nobel- and Booker Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro captures the heart. The legendary Bill Nighy helms this film as Mr. Williams. A typical mid-level government bureaucrat in 1952, Williams never ruffles any feathers and maintains a routine to the point of soulless monotony. After he receives a terminal diagnosis, he must reassess his years of playing by the rules and learn how to begin living.

Alex Sharp is Peter Wakeling, the newest member of Mr. Williams’ team. He is the audience’s lens through which to observe Nighy’s reputation. His ability to understand the bigger picture showcases Sharp’s talents. He is simply lovely here. Aimee Lou Woods plays Nighy’s spirited office mate, Margaret Harris. Her young enthusiasm and gentle nature present an intriguing foil for Nighy. Woods displays a wide-eyed honesty that gives way to genuine companionship. She becomes a shoulder to cry on and a replacement for his estranged son. Their chemistry is a delight. 

Bill Nighy gives a quietly profound performance as Mr. Williams. Each beat overflows with complexity, regrets, and thoughtfulness. Nighy breathes life into this role with passing moments. His heartfelt rendition of the Scottish folk song Rowan Tree moved me to tears. It is an award-worthy turn.

A community playground becomes the symbol of a life worth living. An apology for the inconvenience, an offer of assistance, and a kind word; the impact of these seemingly small gestures have a ripple effect. The structure of the script is surprising and relentlessly engaging. I found myself lost in the quiet dignity of it all. 

The sumptuous score from Emelie Levienaise – Farrouch is enveloping. Beautifully framed and lit cinematography from Jamie Ramsey suits this story perfectly. I felt the final shot in my gut.

LIVING is not a boisterous film. It is a story that makes you want to be a better person. It is a lesson in human connection, mutual respect, and taking a breath to enjoy each moment. LIVING speaks volumes about leaving a legacy of kindness.


United Kingdom, 2022
English
CANADIAN PREMIERE
102 minutes
Director
Oliver Hermanus
Cast
Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke
Cinematography
Jamie D. Ramsay
Editing
Chris Wyatt
Producers
Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen
Production Company
Number 9 Films
Production Designer
Helen Scott
Screenplay
Kazuo Ishiguro


TIFF22 review: Marie Clements’ ‘BONES OF CROWS’ is an exquisite cinematic experience of trauma and hope.

BONES OF CROWS

Centuries of trauma reveal themselves on the big screen in the TIFF22 feature film BONES OF CROWS by writer-director Marie ClementsIt’s a visceral but undeniably important watch. The film occurs over the span of 100 years. Watching the Catholic church, aided by the government, nonchalantly discussing the planned eradication of the poor is infuriating. Indigenous children were ripped from the arms of their parents, under threat of incarceration, and placed in residential homes run by severe priests and nuns. Children were stripped of their culture and used as lab rats. The number of children buried in unmarked graves is unfathomable. 

In the film, we bounce in time as unresolved trauma and abuse rear their ugly head through decades. Actress Grace Dove plays Aline Spears beginning at age 16. Once a promising concert pianist, her hopes and dreams were dashed by physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Her memories, accompanied by those of one of her siblings and husband, intertwine to paint a harrowing picture of torture and fear. But, the pain inflicted upon her never extinguishes her soul. As she endures continued racism, Aline has the last word through a chance visit to the Vatican and the legacy of her children. 

While BONES OF CROWS predominantly follows the fallout of one family, their story is tragically universal. Dove carries the weight of the film on her shoulders, reminding the audience of the strength of the Canadian native population. Her unrelenting and raw bravery lets the audience reside in her psyche with a quiet discomfort needed for BONES OF CROWS to succeed as it does.

The beauty and triumph of BONES OF CROWS occur in unexpected moments. The appearance of the titular birds becomes a recurring theme of hope. You cannot ignore the striking cinematography. The film’s finale is a much-needed emotional catharsis. When you hear and feel the song “You Are My Bones,’ co-written by Marie Clements, you won’t be able to hold back any longer. Bones of Crows is a soul-changing film. It’s simply exquisite storytelling. TIFF22 audiences are privileged to experience this first. BONES OF CROWS is a jaw-dropping cinematic experience. 


An epic account of the life of Cree matriarch Aline Spears that spans generations, Marie Clements’ Bones of Crows is a powerful indictment of the abuse of Indigenous peoples as well as a stirring story of resilience and resistance.

This programme contains scenes that may distress some viewers, especially those who have experienced harm, abuse, violence, and/or intergenerational trauma due to colonial practices.

Support is available 24 hours a day for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and for those who may be triggered by content dealing with residential schools, child abuse, emotional trauma, and racism. The national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.


Canada, 2022
English, Cree, ʔayʔajuθəm, Italian
WORLD PREMIERE
127 minutes
Director
Marie Clements
Cast
Grace Dove, Phillip Forest Lewitski, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Michelle Thrush, Glen Gould, Gail Maurice, Carla Rae, Cara Gee, Rémy Girard, Karine Vanasse, Jonathon Whitesell, Patrick Garrow, Summer Testawich, Sierra McRae, Tanaya Beatty, Joshua Odjick, Alanis Obomsawin


TIFF22 review: ‘MY SAILOR, MY LOVE’ boasts beautifully complex performances.

MY SAILOR, MY LOVE

In Klaus Härö‘s TIFF22 feature, My Sailor, My Love, Grace hires a much-needed housekeeper for her curmudgeonly father, Howard. When Annie enters their lives, the family dynamic reaches a breaking point.

The friction between Howard and Grace slowly comes to light. Grace’s bitterness towards Annie stems from an inability to let her father move on in life. As his lifelong caretaker, her deep-seated resentment proves a daunting hurdle for everyone. Catherine Walker gives a nuanced performance. You can feel the weary weight of the years. Anyone who has cared for an aging family member will recognize emotional exhaustion and perhaps a touch of martyrdom. Walker bears all in the role.

This endearing later-stage love story is as lovely as can be. Annie and Howard’s earnest chemistry come to life with the extraordinary performances by James Cosmo and Bríd Brennan. Beautifully paced histories of their former selves lend to its authenticity. So much of the script occurs in things unsaid.

Brennan plays Annie with a generous disposition. Anyone would be lucky to have her as a scene partner. Her presence fills the screen with warmth. Brennan is spectacular.

Howard exists through the emotional redemption of James Cosmo. Cosmo gives us every bit of himself as a man mired in hurt, fear, and shame. As Howard, he longs for happiness and must come to terms with past regressions to heal. It is an award-worthy turn.

The score from Michelino Bisceglia has a classic elegance. The thoughtful cinematography by Robert Nordström includes breathtaking ariel views and impactful tracking shots. The care and intention are impossible to miss. My Sailor, My Love will capture the hearts of TIFF22 audiences.


Finland, Ireland, 2022
English
WORLD PREMIERE
103 minutes
Director
Klaus Härö
Cast
James Cosmo, Bríd Brennan, Catherine Walker


TIFF 2022 review: Mercedes Bryce Morgan’s visually stunning feature debut ‘FIXATION’ takes audiences through trauma and trickery.

FIXATION

In Mercedes Bryce Morgan’s stylish feature debut, Maddie Hasson (Malignant) plays a young woman committed to an unorthodox institution by a pair of enigmatic doctors (Genesis Rodriguez and Stephen McHattie).

TIFF22 film FIXATION from Mercedes Bruce Morgan is a dizzying tidal wave of mystery and trauma. Go down the rabbit hole of lies and deceit in the most manipulative therapy sessions ever. If you can stomach the psychological chaos, you might come out the other side.

Stephen McHattie plays Dora’s enigmatic psychologist. He is a loathsome genius in this role. Genesis Rodriguez gives a nuanced performance as Dr. Melanie. The complexity of her character isn’t immediately apparent, but as the plot moves along, Rodriguez is wonderful. Maddie Hasson plays Dora with genuine fear and confusion. Her raw vulnerability is mesmerizing. Hassan leaves it all on the screen in a visceral turn.

Morgan responsibly begins FIXATION with a trigger warning. Individuals living with trauma will feel this film on another plain. Anjoum Agrama’s fast-paced editing immediately establishes an alarming atmosphere. Music by Michelle Osis gives the film an edgy vibe. Screenwriter William Day Frank teases the audience constantly, releasing clues in every scene. The script is so clever I second-guessed every one of my theories, instantly.

The costumes by Muska Zurmati can only be described as couture hospital chic. Pay close attention to Hassan’s white outfits, in particular. The production design from Lucas Gentilcore and cinematography from Oren Soffer are elaborate and immersive. It’s like a fun house of the imagination, something akin to a practical version of Sucker Punch. The pure mind-fuckery that this film presents will rattle you. FIXATION is a ride to hell and back. My God, if this is only the beginning of Mercedes Bryce Morgan‘s feature filmmaking career, imagine what might come next.


For more information on TIFF22, click here!


Film lovers unite! TIFF 2022 is upon us. Here’s what we’re excited to see. #TIFF22

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2022 has arrived! This year there is a little bit (or a lot) for everyone, from In Conversation With Taylor Swift and a screening of All Too Well: The Short Film on 35mm, Viola Davis in The Woman King, to the Midnight Madness world premiere of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. TIFF never disappoints and this year, in its 47th edition, the stars come out to entertain the masses. With so many options, here are a few titles we’re keeping our eyes on.


CHARCOAL (PLATFORM SECTION–WORLD PREMIERE)

Brazil, 2022. In a remote area in São Paulo’s countryside, a rural family who lives beside a charcoal factory accepts a proposal to host a mysterious foreigner. The home soon becomes a hideout as the so-called guest happens to be a highly wanted drug lord. The mother, her husband and child will have to learn how to share the same roof with this stranger, while keeping up appearances of an unchanged peasant routine.

Writer-director Carolina Markowicz has had many of her short films play the festival. This will be her feature debut and I cannot wait to experience her storytelling in long form.


BONES OF CROWS (Contemporary World Cinema, World Premiere)

 

Unfolding over 100 years, BONES OF CROWS is a feature film told through the eyes of Cree Matriarch Aline Spears as she survives a childhood in Canada’s residential school system to continue her family’s generational fight in the face of systemic starvation, racism, and sexual abuse.

We’re all aware by now of the horror stories of the children forced to live in Canada’s residential schools. So much so that the Pope apologized for the abuse the children endured after innumerable graves were discovered on the former grounds. Bones of Crows is a vastly important story.

*This program contains scenes that may distress some viewers, especially those who have experienced harm, abuse, violence, and/or intergenerational trauma due to colonial practices.

Support is available 24 hours a day for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and for those who may be triggered by content dealing with residential schools, child abuse, emotional trauma, and racism. The national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.


BROTHER (Special Presentations, World Premiere)
Propelled by the pulsing beats of Toronto’s early hip hop scene, BROTHER is the story of Francis (Aaron Pierre) and Michael (Lamar Johnson), sons of Caribbean immigrants maturing into young men. Director Clement Virgo expertly tackles themes of masculinity, identity and family as a mystery unfolds during the sweltering summer of 1991, and escalating tensions set off a series of events that change the course of the brothers’ lives forever.

Writer-director Clement Virgo brings TIFF audiences a tale more relevant today than ever. A study in grief, Brother is bound to impact viewers is a visceral manner.


DALÍLAND (Gala Presentation, World Premiere, **Closing Night**)
Mary Harron’s DALÍLAND is both a coming of age story and a searing, funny and sympathetic portrait of crisis in the late life of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Experienced through the eyes of young gallery assistant James Linton (Christopher Briney) as he is invited into a glamorous new world, audiences will uncover the true Dalí (Sir Ben Kingsley) – the complex, flawed, and deeply human man behind the brilliant paintings, wild theatrics, and iconic mustache and explore his especially tempestuous relationship with Gala (Barbara Sukowa), his wife and muse.\

Sir Ben Kingsley releases Dali from an enigmatic caricature and humanizes the genius, his life, and his work.


THE PEOPLE’S JOKER (Midnight Madness, World Premiere)
After years numbing herself with irony and an inhalant called Smylex, an unfunny aspiring clown grapples with gender identity, first love, and old foes all while founding an illegal comedy theater in Gotham City. It’s a queer coming-of-age Joker Origin story. Completely unlicensed by DC and Warner Brothers. Starring and directed by Vera Drew (“Beef House,” “Who Is America”) and featuring the work of 200 independent artists on three separate continents, all made during a global pandemic!

A queer coming-of-age satire and multi-media extravaganza, this mashup of fandoms I never knew I needed.


MY SAILOR, MY LOVE (Contemporary World Cinema, World Premiere)
MY SAILOR, MY LOVE is a heart-warming drama on timeless love and forgiveness. Howard (James Cosmo) is a retired sailor and widower, his daughter Grace (Catherine Walker) hires a caregiver Annie (Bríd Brennan). Reclusive and stubborn, Howard rejects Annie’s company, but eventually opens his heart and gives final love a chance.

A raw and compelling family drama, My Sailor, My Love is teeming with complexity and outstanding performances.


THE WOMAN KING  (World Premiere — Gala Presentations)

Synopsis: The Woman King is the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, The Woman King follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (Oscar®-winner Viola Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. Some things are worth fighting for…

Listen, if you tell me that Viola Davis is starring in a film, my butt is in a seat. Based on a true story? Well, that’s solidly in Davis’ wheelhouse, but really what isn’t? This is one highly anticipated film already.


ALLELUJAH (SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS)

This glorious reunion of Oscar winner Judi Dench and director Richard Eyre (Notes on a Scandal) is a spirited homage to the idiosyncrasies of old age and the noble fortitude of health-care workers everywhere. Adapted by Heidi Thomas from Alan Bennett’s stage play, Allelujah assembles a stunning ensemble of veteran British actors, including Jennifer Saunders, David Bradley, and Derek Jacobi.

There is every chance this will be an absolute crowd pleaser. The premise alone has me making up scenarios in my head of pure shenanigans. With a hell of a cast, Allelujah cannot go wrong.


FIXATION (Contemporary World Cinema)

Maddie Hasson (Malignant) plays a young woman committed to an unorthodox institution by a pair of enigmatic doctors (Genesis Rodriguez and Stephen McHattie).

Another feature debut from a female filmmaker, Mercedes Bryce Morgan brings to life an ambitious physiological thriller that will mesmerize with wild production design. I don’t think any of us are ready for such treatment. (pun intended)


LIVING (CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA)

In this exquisitely realized remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru, director Oliver Hermanus teams with Nobel- and Booker Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro to renew a classic. LIVING is the story of an ordinary man, reduced by years of oppressive office routine to a shadow existence, who at the eleventh hour makes a supreme effort to turn his dull life into something wonderful – into one he can say has been lived to the full

The magnificent Bill Nighy helms this film about humanity and mortality. With Mothering Sunday vets, cinematographer Jamie Ramsay and production designer Helen Scott, Living will undoubtedly be a feast for the eyes.

THE LOST KING (SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS)

Synopsis: In the archaeological find of a century, the remains of King Richard III — presumed scattered over 500 years ago — were discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester in 2012. The search had been conceived and motivated by an amateur historian, Philippa Langley, whose passion and unrelenting research were met with skepticism. THE LOST KING is the inspiring true story of a woman who refused to be ignored and who took on Britain’s most eminent historians, forcing them to rethink the legacy of one of the most controversial kings in England’s history. A tale of discovery, obsession, and stolen glory (both then and now), THE LOST KING is a magical adventure illuminated by one woman’s growing sense of purpose.

My husband and I are history nerds. We’ve seen the documentary of this very story and it was nothing short of fascinating. For those who may not know the vile things said about King Richard III, it’s rather shocking. Sally Hawkins is the perfect choice to capture Philippa Langley‘s determined journey to uncover the truth.

MOVING ON (GALA PRESENTATIONS)

Synopsis: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star in this fusion of audacious comedy and bracing drama about estranged pals who are reunited when a beloved mutual friend dies, leaving her widower the target of a revenge plan.

Perhaps some of the most notable chemistry we’ve seen between two women in years bounds off the screen when Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda work together. These two powerhouse ladies bring heart and humor to a story much more complex than at first sight. TIFF audiences are bound to cheer for Moving On.


ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE (Discovery)

Based on the book by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, two teenage Mexican-American loners in 1987 El Paso explore a new, unusual friendship and the difficult road to self-discovery.

Another female director’s feature debut (in case anyone is counting and cheering along with me), Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is more than a queer coming-of-age story. You’d never guess Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales were first-time leads. Lin-Manuel Miranda joins a powerhouse team of producers after narrating Sáenz‘s audiobook in 2013 and then reading writer-director Aitch Alberto’s screenplay. He knows a little something about quality writing, so his seal of approval is huge.


TIFF 2022 runs from September 8th to the 18th.

For more information on the fest, visit tiff.net