TIFF Review: 'We Wanted More'

We Wanted More
(Canada, 15 min.)
Dir. Stephen Dunn, Writ. Stephen Dunn & Margaret Lester
Starring: Christine Horne (Hannah), Angela Asher, Skyler Wexler.
Programme: Short Cuts Canada, Programme 3 (World Premiere)
Christine Horne stars in We Wanted More.
Photo by Rick O'Brien, courtesy of the Canadian Film Centre.
The road to success requires some tough choices. To stay or to go, or maybe saying ‘yes’ instead of saying ‘no’, are both decisions that need to be made when the time comes to choose a path. These choices can haunt one forever, though, especially if life doesn’t take the route one planned.

Hannah, played by Christine Horne, is a singer on the cusp of fame in the feverish psychological thriller We Wanted More, which is one of two productions by the Canadian Film Centre screening at TIFF this year. (The other being Anatomy of Assistance.) Hannah is on the verge of success—her agent, Karen (Angela Asher), busily reminds her of a hot gig—but she’s stuck in the past and she can barely move forward. The singer finds herself losing her voice as she feels a sense of helplessness when her beau stands her up after a successful performance. Looking longingly at a little girl as Karen rambles off the itinerary for the upcoming big break, Hannah seems to be looking at a fork in the road as she comes so close to stardom.

Hannah finds her voice later that night when she coughs up some odd little thing. It’s a girl. Not so much a bouncing baby as a creepy demon child à la The Ring, Hannah finds herself in a traumatizing night of monstrous motherhood as she cares for the child she thought she wanted.

We Wanted More is a hypnotic homage to the mothers of late night horror. As Hannah frets over life’s decisions, We Wanted More casts its victim/agent/villain in nods to the women who have been consumed by the same nightmarish dilemma in which Hannah finds herself. Starting off with a sumptuously shot backstage sequence—the cinematography by Jackson Parrell is a highlight—that echoes the psychological terror of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, We Wanted More sets up the troubled singer in a battle of wits against herself. The rocker is the black swan; the mother, the white. Or is it vice versa?

We Wanted More’s eye-catching Black Swan-ish opener is just one of several homages to the femme-centric films that have been milestones in psychological horror. It’s hard not to notice Miss Horne’s unmistakable physical resemblance to Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, for example, after Hannah wipes the goop off her face and returns to her spacious apartment. Tormented by phone calls, unexpected visitors, and, most of all, the prospect of motherhood, Hannah struggles with the same intense demons that plagued Rosemary and her baby.

Being a mother is less a dream than a nightmare for Hannah (and for many artsy types, one suspects) as her night or terror with the little child allows her to feed her nurturing side by offering the girl some cookies and a wine glass full of milk. The thrill of motherhood, however, quickly becomes banal as playtime turns into chores. The dream of being a mother goes full on terrifying, though, once Hannah loses her voice completely and sees the child overtake her rock star ambitions. Eat your heart out, Barbara Creed.

We Wanted More finds an unexpected sense of release through Hannah’s struggle with monstrous motherhood. Horne, recently seen in Margarita, offers a compelling, mostly silent performance that carries Hannah’s fever dream in a performance that realizes the character’s battle between her ambitions and her inner demons. Production skills are equally top-notch, with the visual scheme deserving especially high marks. The creepy score, comprised of music by Todor Kobakov and Hannah’s haunting vocals, add to the eerie atmosphere. Director Stephen Dunn delivers a psychologically taut horror tale with We Wanted More. Whether Hannah’s nightmare is reality or psychosis, the film is sure to leave a lasting impression with horror fans, aspiring artists, and expectant parents alike.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

We Wanted More screens in Short Cuts Canada Programme 3:
-Monday, Sept. 9, 10:00 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
-Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2:45 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Some of the shorts will also be playing online 24 hours after their public screening, so please check http://www.youtube.com/tiff and see if We Wanted More is one them!

Please visit www.tiff.net for more info on this year’s festival.