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|Shadows off the beaten path|
Indies, foreigns, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 7.Oct.20|
From the Vine
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Sean Cisterna
scr Willem Wennekers
prd Sean Cisterna, Francesco Papa, Kyle Bornais, Paula Brancati
with Joe Pantoliano, Paula Brancati, Marco Leonardi, Wendy Crewson, Tony Nardi, Franco Lo Presti, Tony Nappo, Dino Becagli, Anna Rita del Piano, Sonia Dhillon Tully, Kevin Hanchard, Frank Moore
release It Jul.19 igff,
Is it streaming?
Set in an almost obscenely beautiful corner of Italy, this breezy comedy-drama centres on one man's offbeat midlife crisis, which echoes through an economically depressed old world community. This is a warm movie with a big heart, exploring enormously important issues in a way that's never remotely pushy or preachy. It simply lets its cosy story unfold, infused with life and love and just a bit of craziness.
Pushed into an ethical corner by his board, Canadian automotive executive Marco (Pantoliano) walks away. To gain perspective, he heads to Acerenza, the small village in Italy where he was born. As long-forgotten memories are triggered, Marco's childhood buddy Luca (Leonardi), now the local cop, reintroduces him around town. And when he sees his grandfather's winery is shut, Marco decides to reopen it and breathe some life into this depressed region. Back in Toronto, his wife Marina (Crewson) and daughter Laura (Brancati) are baffled, so they travel to Italy to make him see some sense.
Quirky customs add plenty of twinkly sentiment, seen through Marco's memories of time spent with his grandfather Canio (Becagli). And everyone he meets is idiosyncratic, such as Marcello (Nardi), who carried on tending the vines to keep Canio's memory alive. There are also narrative flourishes as Marco ponders his personal and professional lives, which are cleverly woven together on-screen. It's silly that statues come to life and vines speak to him, but the way this place gets to Marco has real meaning.
In a rare leading role, Pantoliano absolutely shines, vividly capturing Marco's likeability and tenacity, as well as his moral centre. It's delightful to watch him tap into something deep inside of him, finding unexpected joy that's infectious to those around him. Crewson and Brancati have a lot of fun as the initially sceptical wife and daughter, and then they make their own connections. The locals are feisty, funny and of course expert scene-stealers.
All of this plays out in a way that's wistful and sweet, an enjoyable blend of earthy drama and comical nuttiness, with a bit of romance stirred in for good measure. It's not the kind of movie that changes the world, but in its reminder of the things that are truly important in life, it has the power to change the heart of someone who has stopped watching to their inner compass. Yes, it's all rather corny and cute, but it leaves us with a big smile.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Jamie Patterson
prd Finn Bruce
scr Jamie Patterson, Chris Willoughby, April Pearson, Finn Bruce
with April Pearson, Chris Willoughby, Skye Lourie, Lily Donovan, Carli Sandweiss, Jonay Sevillano Regalado, Ramzi DeHani, Edouard Fousset, Alvaro Cea Alvarez, Sarina Rausa, Victor Caulfield
release US 18.Aug.20,
Is it streaming?
Shot guerrilla-style in beautiful locations across Europe, this British comedy takes a breezy look at a brittle relationship. The silly comical tone belies some darker undercurrents, which are played with observational skill. While the characters are enjoyably full-on idiots, the settings provide authenticity even when their antics become ridiculous. And it's nicely directed by Jamie Patterson as a light, goofy romp with a bit of a bite.
In their 30s, Londoners Lucy and Chris (Pearson and Willoughby) decide to take a 10-day backpacking trip around Europe, hoping to add spark to their relationship by visiting landmarks in romantic cities like Paris, Nice, Milan, Venice and Florence. Even as they create the usual variety of tourist disasters, they have quite a lot of fun along the way. People they meet include a flirty receptionist (Sandweiss) and a helpful expat (Donovan). And perhaps it's good that they're separated for part of the journey, because their storming rows begin to get very nasty indeed.
It's telling that Lucy and Chris have let the magic wane after only 15 months together. And they're also inept travellers who haven't planned this trip particularly well, which leads to zany misadventures and miscommunication. Much of this is amusing, although some sequences are painful to watch, seeking laughs in embarrassment or coincidence rather than clever writing. So it's not easy to take the serious moments seriously. And elements of the premise (like their lack of mobile phones) are badly contrived.
Pearson and Willoughby have terrific comic timing, delivering sparky banter that walks a fine line between affection and cynicism. Lucy and Chris aren't great at communicating very profoundly, but they constantly make each other laugh with improvised insults and gags. They're also connected deeply enough to know how to push each others' buttons, and both wildly overreact to flirting, sometimes for good reason. In addition, Chris is almost overpoweringly dim so, in fine farcical style, Willoughby spends rather a lot of time drunk and/or naked.
While there are pointed angles to this relationship, the film isn't terribly profound, more like freewheeling sketch comedy than a comment on how couples connect. And while the various locations are gorgeous, there's never an exploration of why they're considered to be romantic, or even what that might mean. A clanking plot point at the halfway point offers some intriguing options. It's also a pathway to a rather nice final sequence that finally lets us see what they like about each other.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Rob Margolies
scr Tim Realbuto
prd Rob Margolies, Tim Realbuto
with Nolan Gould, Tim Realbuto, Jenna Leigh Green, Oscar Nunez, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Natalie Roy, Jeanine Bartel, Drew Logan Powell, Mavis Simpson-Ernst, Colin Hanlon, Kelly Kozakevich, Doug Plaut
release US 5.Oct.20
Is it streaming?
Actor-writer Tim Realbuto skilfully adapts his stage play for the screen, and it's a bold, provocative drama about identity and legacy. Director Rob Margolies makes this fully cinematic, with clever flickers of memory and fantasy that get inside the characters' minds. The title refers to a key instruction to help actors never to hide from the truth. And where the story goes is complex, offering some deeply thoughtful observations.
A former child star who was disgraced by a sexual scandal, even though he was acquitted, Patrick (Realbuto) is now an alcoholic slob, annoyed when his sister Annie (Green) makes him attend a painful high school production of Romeo and Juliet starring his niece Aggie (Simpson-Ernst). But the 17-year-old Jeremiah (Gould), who's playing Romeo, catches his eye. So Patrick offers to mentor him as an actor. Understandably, Jeremiah's mother (Hogan) is worried about this, and so is Annie. But Patrick and Jeremiah have a connection, and the impact they have on each other is unexpected.
The dialog is strikingly well-written, constantly revealing uncomfortable details as these people circle around each other, both for real and in their imaginations. Patrick and Jeremiah continually challenge each other with truths and lies, exploring the craft of acting while also getting to know each other. "This isn't therapy," Jeremiah says when acting class gets too personal. "Yes it is," replies Patrick, as he continues to probe. And as they both break the surface, they bring up darker thoughts and feelings.
Realbuto's performance is often unnerving, veering through layers of intensity, sometimes wildly heightened for effect, sometimes darkly introspective, but always with a thin mask of bravado. And Gould is also superb as a young man hiding his feelings, then reluctantly letting them out. But he's not easily manipulated, and the scenes between these two men have an electric energy as the power shifts back and forth. Side characters exist outside the circle they form, offering perspective and further provocations.
This is a challenging film that takes on some very big issues that refuse to be cut and dried, forcing us to question the way we can so quickly judge a situation or a person without having all the facts. The various relationships are messy; the ideas are often brutally honest. And along with this, the film is also a remarkable exploration of the art of acting and how it requires a person to dig into the most locked away parts of themselves in order to reveal truth through their character.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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