Toronto 2012: Simon's reviews part 6

Posted on September 14, 2012 by Simon Ward

Categories: Festival Reports

Land of Hope
The Land of Hope

The Land of Hope

Sono Siono’s latest (Cold Fish, Guilty of Romance) is set in the aftermath of the fictional Nagashima nuclear power station meltdown following a tsunami.  Following three couples, two elderly parents (one of whom suffers from senile dementia), their son and his pregnant wife (who flee the fallout), and a younger couple, the film plays out a heartbreaking scenario as they have to decide whether to stay in the town they have lived in all their lives or flee.  Complicated by the lack of truthful information about the severity of the nuclear plant meltdown, the three couples make their own decisions about how to live their lives in the shadow of the disaster.  While the film is a little over-long, it packs a powerful emotional wallop and makes a powerful argument against living in the shadow of nuclear power – something with an added resonance given Japans history in WWII.  Given Sono’s track record for brutal, often hysterical, even sensational, unflinchingly violent work, there is a welcome restrained tone to the film which captures the emotional domestic human trauma the country has been through so recently with Fukushima.  It’s one of the most powerful statements against state hubris for some time and deserves to be seen widely.

Greetings from Tim Buckley

A reasonably well crafted film, with solid performances let down by a thin weak script grafting on redundant and familiar girl meets boy-rockstar cliches to a story which is fascinating if well documented elsewhere.  The film focuses on a tribute concert given in honour of Tim Buckley and his son Jeff’s invitation to perform his fathers work onstage.  Shuttling back and forth between Tim in the past, and Jeff in 1991, the film pretty skillfully dissects Jeff’s struggle to come out of his fathers shadow as an artist in his own right.  Some of the music performances murder the originals (particularly Song to a Siren) while others are sublime.  One for fans of the Buckley’s and unlikely to break out to a new audience.

What Richard Did

Lenny Abrahamson’s (Garage, Adam & Paul) film is a terrific tight moving account of a young Irish middle-class rugby player destined for great things when with one kick he kills a peer in a fight over his girlfriend.  As the pressure mounts to turn himself in, his parents and friends close-ranks to hide him, but guilt eats away at his conscience.  It’s beautifully played, handled with an understated, perfectly pitched and always sympathetic hand which doesn’t waste a single shot.  Abrahamson is fast shaping up to Ireland’s answer to Bruno Dumont and the Dardennes.  An increasingly impressive real talent and in my top films of the festival.

Passion

A sort of compendium of Brian De Palma’s long career including his trademark (if you put Argento to one side) leather-gloved slasher, female psycho(s), foot fetishes, dream sequences, split screen action and a whole bag full of Hitchcockian identity/plot twists.  It’s equally ravishing and risible but can never be accused of being boring!  Rachel McAdam’s and Noomi Rapace play corporate rivals each seeking to humiliate and destroy the other in a game of cat and mouse which quickly escalates from board room one-upmanship to throat slitting gore.  Great incomprehensible fun.  While everyone walked out saying “what a disaster” they also had great big grins plastered across their faces.  De Palma fans will be highly entertained while innocent bystanders will be equally bemused.

Passion
Passion

Disconnect

A multi-stranded exploration of the dangers of the net, this an unimaginative, technically competent multi-stranded narrative which slowly draws its disparate characters into a connected whole a la Magnolia or Nashville but can’t hold a candle to any of its inspirations.  A journalist seeks to expose chat-room exploitation of minors, a high school student is humiliated by sending an explicit photo of himself to what he believes is a female admirer but turns out to be two fellow schoolboys, a couple lose their savings to an unknown fraudster and an ex-cop trying to locate the fraudster discovers uncomfortable truths about his sons online antics.  In a predictable finale we’re even given a little bullet-time action as all the characters meet a neat resolution.  Andrea Riseborough and a decent score by noted contemporary British composer Max Richter provide the only sparks in an otherwise dull and tediously downbeat drama.

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