Science and Serendipity: Akash Sherman Talks 'Clara'

Patrick J. Adams and Troian Bellisario star in Akash Sherman's Clara
Courtesy D Films
Clara will make audiences gaze up at the stars with wonder. It’s science fiction done right with big, thoughtful questions about the great beyond. The film intertwines questions of love and loss as melancholy scientist Dr. Isaac Bruno (Patrick J. Adams) feverishly dives into a search for life beyond our galaxy. His research gets a boost when an ethereal stranger named Clara (Troian Bellisario) comes into his life and shifts the cosmos, putting unquantifiable variables like love into the equation and deepening his quest. Isaac’s sense of the universe expands as his longing to know more about the galaxy, life, the afterlife, and that grey zone between scientific evidence and heartfelt belief all become intimately connected the deeper he probes the cosmos.


'The Drawer Boy': From Stage to Screen

The Drawer Boy
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Arturo Pérez Torres, Aviva Armour-Ostroff; Writ. Michael Healey, Arturo Pérez Torres
Starring: Richard Clarkin, Stuart Hughes, Jakob Ehman  
The Drawer Boy is a contemporary classic of Canadian theatre and the film adaptation could enjoy similar esteem. This stage-to-screen take on Michael Healey’s acclaimed play is a refreshingly vibrant drama. Some audiences might find the adaptation a bit too talky and a bit too stagey, but stick with it. The Drawer Boy is a sparse, small-scale affair smartly told that takes the bare essences of good filmmaking—a good story, strong actors, and a sense of cinematic space—and bundles them together like a sturdy bale of wheat. It’s nice to have a Canadian film to get excited about again.

'At Eternity's Gate': The Art of Madness

At Eternity’s Gate
(USA/France/Switzerland, 110 min.)
Dir. Julian Schnabel, Writ. Jean-Claude Carrière, Louise Kugelberg, Julian Schnabel
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Emmanuelle Seigner, Mads Mikkelsen
Willem Dafoe stars as Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate
Photo by Lily Gavin
Julian Schnabel is a master of visual poetry. The Oscar-nominated director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly returns with another original and impeccably realized dive into the artistic process. Schnabel, a painter as well as a filmmaker, daubs a canvas of dreams and madness while bringing to the screen the brilliant yet troubled mind of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, played masterfully by Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project). The film is not a cradle to grave biography of the artist who is as famous for his Starry Night painting as he is for cutting off his ear. Instead, it’s an impressionistic interpretation of a genius both fuelled and plagued by demons. At Eternity’s Gate feels the evocative portrait Van Gogh would have wanted.


Portrait of a War Hero

A Private War
(USA/UK, 110 min.)
Dir. Matthew Heineman, Writ. Arash Amel
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci  
Marie Colvin movie
Rosamund Pike stars as Marie Colvin in A Private War
There is a war going on. It doesn’t have bullets. It doesn’t have bombs. It doesn’t have drones. Instead, this war is one of words, access, and angles.

Touched by Mediocrity

(Canada, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Karl R. Hearne
Starring: Hugh Thompson, Lola Flanery, John MacLaren
Director Karl R. Hearne really seems to like the colour blue. It’s everywhere in his new feature Touched. It’s in the lighting (so cold!), the clothing (so sad!), and the mood (so dreary!).


EUFF Review: 'I Am Not a Witch'

I Am Not a Witch
(UK/France, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Rungano Nyoni
Starring: Margaret Mulubwa, Henry Phir, Nancy Murilo 
Margaret Mulubwa
The inciting event of I am not a Witch could easily be a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A woman fetches a bucket of water and drops it when she encounters a young girl on the path home. Her explanation for being startled? The little kid’s a witch.


Boy Erased: Every Parent Needs to See this Movie

Boy Erased
(USA, 114 min.)
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Xavier Dolan, Joe Alwyn, Troye Sivan
Theo Pellerin and Lucas Hedges in a scene from Boy Erased
There’s a moment in Boy Erased in which Nicole Kidman brought the house down at the Princess of Wales Theatre when the film premiered at TIFF earlier this fall. Kidman’s character Nancy rescues her son, Jared (Lucas Hedges), from a gay conversion therapy camp that she’d enlisted him in with hopes to straighten him out. As they escape, the camp’s leader and self-certified “therapist” (Joel Edgerton) comes running after them, convincing them to stop and correct their sins. Nancy, a devout Baptist, realizes that she can reconcile her faith with her love for her son. Nancy turns protectively and fiercely admonishes her foe with the sassiest “Shame on you!” decreed in cinema. The line comes straight from the heart as love gives Nancy a reality check and Boy Erased provides a pure, heart-breaking portrait of the bond between parents and their children.


EUFF Review: 'Omnipresent'

(Bulgaria, 120 min.)
Written and directed by Ilian Djevelekov
Starring: Velislav Pavlov, Teodora Duhovnikova, Vesela Babinova, Anastassia Liutova, Mihail Mutafov 
How many cameras does a person walk by every day? The fear of Big Brother watching over us is a reality that people take for granted. Government spying might be one thing, since they can only monitor so many people, but the threat of surveillance is everywhere, as are the inherent elements of power and control that come with the information gleaned by the voyeur. Omnipresent, the opening night film of Toronto’s European Union Film Festival and Bulgaria’s official entry in this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, explores the destructive role of the panopticon as one man takes the all-seeing eye of the camera too far. It’s a chilling morality play on the power of media.


Burning: A Grin without a Cat

(South Korea, 148 min.)
Dir. Lee Chang-dong, Writ. Lee Chang-dong, Jungmi Oh
Starring: Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jeon
Ah-In Yoo, Jong-Seo Jeon and Steven Yeun star in Burning
Burning is a slow and difficult film. South Korea's Oscar bid is lethargic even by the standard with which one approaches a film by auteur Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine, Poetry). Lee has mastered the art of slow cinema, rarely making a movie that clocks in under two hours and twenty minutes, so what Burning lacks in immediate payoff it enjoys in long-term gain. See it in a theatre and leave your phone behind—or, if watching Burning at home, turn the phone off, remove the battery, and leave both parts in different rooms. This is the kind of movie from which one can easily be distracted, since the action happens almost imperceptibly in Lee’s carefully measured frames. Miss not a beat, lest ye be lost forever. The film is a slow burn with a sting that creeps up a day later.