TIFF: The Cord’s final cut
End of Watch (Directed by David Ayer, USA)
There have been countless films that follow members of the Los Angeles Police Department, but none quite like those of writer, producer and director David Ayer (Training Day, 2001). Instead of watching a film saturated in exaggerated explosions and drug busts or killing schemes, there is a sense of reality in each scene, like something you would see on the news.
The film utilizes a handheld camera-style to document an array of daily moments, on and off the job, of partners Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. By employing handheld and pocket clip cameras to capture each jerky movement and instilling point of view shots, they situate the audience in the characters personal experiences.
Applying fast-paced editing to generate a gritty, kinetic energy, Ayer establishes a genuine realism that fulfills your expectations of a cop film, and then some. Instead of solely focusing on drugs, corruption and human trafficking, the audience gets to overhear and enjoy the humorous banter between Gyllenhaal and Peña.
From weddings to the birth of a child, this ultimately contributes to the constructions of their personas and exhibits their dedication to the brotherhood. Before the tears and sorrow there are feelings of elation, emphasizing the themes of love, joie de vivre, and leading a life that is not only preoccupied with the job.
– Alexandra Urosevic
The Impossible (Directed by J.A. Bayona, USA/Spain)
When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, countless lives were drastically altered as thousands of strangers struggled to survive this unforeseeable natural disaster. In Juan Antonio Bayona’s brilliant film based on the true story of a family of five who were vacationing at a beach front resort in Thailand when tragedy struck, the audience is confronted by the harsh reality of this event as the film illustrates the sweeping destruction of the crushing waves and the pandemonium that ensued, with overflowing hospitals as the narratives focal point.
The Impossible stars Ewan McGregor, who provides dignified support to the film’s standout performances by Tom Holland and Naomi Watts. Holland delivers an emotionally honest portrayal of the eldest son who grows from an angry and obstinate young man into an amiable adult, taking on the responsibilities of a parent when his mother, Watts, is debilitated by the disaster. Watts also gives one of her best performances to date, as she exudes true grit in her effort to survive her crippling wounds.
For a film about a horrific reality, it sheds light on the compassion of human nature and our desires to help others even when experiencing our own heart ache, frustration, and despair. This is a highly-recommended watch, worthy of the 15-minute standing ovation it received with the spotlight on the actual family who were in attendance.
JUMP (Directed by Kieron J. Walsh, Northern Ireland)
One night, three intertwining stories. That’s all it takes to set off a whirlwind of events that occur on New Year’s eve. Set in the Irish town Derry, director Kieron J. Walsh emerges with his exceptional storytelling skills – making himself a hybrid of Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Days) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) – as he takes control of the fate of Greta, her best friends Marie and Dara, and the complicated issue between her love interest Pearse, and her gangster dad Frank Feeney.
Much like its jarring plotline, the genre of the film can be seen in three different categories: a gangster film, a black comedy and a flawed love story. JUMP doesn’t spare a second to have the audience on the edge of its seats.
Whether it is laughing at the cheeky humour, gasping at notable plot reveals or being mesmerized with the beauty Rom is able to capture even during the darkest moments. This film wins for fluidly maintaining 84 minutes of pure onscreen entertainment.
Something in the Air (Directed by Olivier Assayas, France)
The aftermaths of May 1968 and the spark of the Cultural Revolution sets a passionate fire as young high school students fight against a government and system of laws they feel is corrupt and doomed. The audience follows Gilles, an artist who yearns to be liberated by joining anarchists and create a new system of language and rules through film and art.
However as the story unfolds and Gilles sees himself growing apart from his friends who are getting more politically involved, he starts to question his political commitments. Finally, relief comes when Gilles realizes this and accepts his way of life. He is a student, he wants to be a painter and despite his opposing views towards the government, he wants to live his life in the way he is comfortable with.
Since the film does not follow the political views of the characters, it does nothing to inspire or affect the viewer. The filmic techniques of Something in the Air are effective when working against the characters who are desperately trying to grasp onto something and be a part of the change.
Middle of Nowhere (Directed by Ava DuVernay, USA)
Ava DuVernay guides us through the passion and hope of Ruby (played by Emayatzy Corineadli), a woman who must deal with the loss of her husband’s freedom; he is imprisoned for eight years.
Ruby’s optimism is raw and fierce, convincing audiences to believe right from the beginning that things are going to be okay, and in time, her happiness and life with her husband will be restored. The audience is captivated by her passion, essence and determination; we too are blinded by the beauty and fail to see the sad, crumbling reality of her choices.
Winner of Best Director at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay brings light to the struggles of a woman who fails to come to terms with her reality by masking it with unrealistic optimism. Corineadli’s performance and Young’s shots fight against each other; we are able to see the misfortunes and isolating consequences that Ruby must face. Until a turn-of-events which causes her to reevaluate her life choices, Middle of Nowhere is the perfect coming-of-life story that sheds light in some the darkest and hopeless moments in our lives.
Frances Ha (Directed by Noah Baumbach, USA)
Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote Frances Ha with Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), plays Frances, a 27-year-old broke dancer who lives her life apartment hopping in New York, while trying to hold on to her immature antics with her best friend Sophie.
A film that exemplifies overeducated, yet inexperienced girls as they struggle to cement themselves into the real world, Gerwig makes us fall in love with Frances and her bubbly, happy-go-lucky personality – even though she is headed for disaster.
Following the same harsh realities as the young adults in HBO’s hit series Girls, Baumbach’s Frances Ha is a more artistic, funnier and less cringing version of the show. Shot in black and white, Baumbach channels the artistic scenes of Brooklyn, the dance studio and Paris, leaving the gritty, uncomfortable and dark nature of the film to be highlighted through the choices and consequences motivated by Frances.
It is up to her as the audience crosses their fingers that at one point of the film, Frances is able to wake up and realize the situation she is and wonder when she will decide to turn her life around before it’s too late.
Twice Born (Directed by Sergio Castellitto, Italy/Spain)
The emotional and personal repercussions of war are unpredictable, which is made visible in Italian director Sergio Castellitto’s film about a “human adventure,” aiming to illustrate that, though humanity has committed iniquity, “there is a light in the hole of darkness,” as he eloquently articulated. The narrative follows Gemma, a single mother played by Penelope Cruz, on a trip from Rome back to Sarajevo with her teenage son – the place where his father is thought to have perished during the Bosnian conflict.
Moving between the past and present, the film centers on the love story between Cruz and American photographer, Diego, played by Emile Hirsch, constructing an incredibly passionate romance in which their sole desire is to produce a child. By the end of Gemma’s recollections, the two are ultimately separated by what seems to be a lost passport. By the end of their trip it is revealed that it was a selfless act done with the purest intention.
Through an evocative score, cinematography, and visual motifs, this engaging but emotionally distressing film is a must see, as it conveys the reality of crimes committed during this unethical war while also illuminating the compassionate nature of mankind. It is so powerful that the many layers that it will continue to unspool in your mind for days to come, whether you are conscious of it or not.
On the Road (Directed by Walter Salles, France/Brazil)
Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, Dark Water) takes a stab at this literary classic of the “beat generation” and transforms it through the use of nostalgia to the big screen. However this novel filled with such a rich storyline cannot be put aside and ignored despite the great performances that were done from the actors.
A novel like On the Road is difficult to adapt; the film’s cinematography and scenery exhibit a truly beautiful America when it zooms by you through a car window, however, the story never progresses more from its saddening travel diary with the moral of the story that everyone has a screwed-up childhood. The film successfully sheds light on the other side of the apparent “reformed” age of America in the 1940‘s before it lets loose decades later, as well as allowing the actors to explore narcissistic and sexually driven characters. Although Salles aims to please by showing the main story reflected in Jack Keroauc’s novel, he never delves into the stories within the story making the overall plotline fall flat. Watch it for its nostalgic shots of America in the 1940s and its exceptional performances done by Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, USA)
No teenager should ever feel alone after seeing the moving and modern adaptation of Chbosky’s novel. A high school freshman named Charlie learns about friendship, love and drugs while dealing internally with a past that has haunted him for years. With Logan Lerman as Charlie, he plays an emotional role that makes any audience member empathize with such a lovable character.
Emma Watson and Ezra Miller play Charlie’s friends Sam and Patrick, who each command the screen in their own way, taking teenage life to a relatable and endearing level (Patrick’s flamboyancy and great dance moves as Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Frank n’ Furter as a highlight). The film includes a great soundtrack that was hand-picked by the director Chbosky himself, such as The Smiths, Sonic Youth, and New Order.
The whole story has a lot of heart and charm, and will strike the souls of any teenager that has ever had a hard time in high school. The catchphrase of the film, as well as the novel, cannot be any more brilliant and significant to the whole story: we are infinite.