Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Falling – Viggo Mortensen makes his directorial debut with this drama that he wrote and starred in as well and I know awards season is going to be weird this year but if both he and his other star Lance Henriksen aren’t even mentioned during it, well, that’s going to be a serious indictment on the industry. Henriksen plays Willis, a gruff and brutal father rapidly descending into dementia who moves from his rural farm to live with his gay son and his family in Los Angeles very much against his own wishes. From the get-go, nothing but hazy bile, vitriol and resentment comes out of Willis’ mouth and it all takes out characters downhill as they just try to do what’s right for him as they put their lives on hold to figure out his situation, The film explores the deep commitment to family, for better and in this case for worse in an experience that largely feels stressful and uncomfortable but is some of the best character work I’ve seen this year. Bravo to Viggo in his first film and it was a nice touch to see a David Cronenberg cameo in this.

Beauty Water – After starting my festival with Brandon Cronenberg’s latest shocker, I’m really surprised it’s taken me this many movies in to finally come across another totally messed up movie then this little slice of weird came up next on my list. An animated South Korean film blending traditional stylings with computer-generated movements, this is the story of an unhappy and overweight woman named Ye-ji who comes across an infomercial for a mysterious water that enables her to lose weight and reshape her appearance. The upkeep of this procedure proves to be a murderous obsession for her and her life starts to spiral out of control but the tables are turned when what she perceives to be the man of her dreams enters her life and the stakes turn from keeping her beauty to keep her life. The film plays like an episode of The Twilight Zone and the twists and turns last all the way up to the final moment. This is definitely a hard film to recommend but if you like to be disturbed by your art then have at it.

My Wonderful Wanda – One of the best things about this festival is starting the screenings of these films with little to no knowledge of what they’re about and that was the perfect case for this drama. This new film from Swiss writer and director Bettina Oberli follows a Polish caretaker named Wanda who looks after the ailing patriarch Joseph, living in his family villa by the lake. She is there for him around the clock and also helps his wife Elsa and the youngest son Gregi care for her on a level beyond being romantic. The work is poorly paid, but Wanda needs the money for her own family in Poland and since everyone lives under one roof, Wanda gets an intimate view of their family life, one so intimate that Wanda unexpectedly becomes pregnant and the source of this ends up blowing the family apart in order to repair the decades of damage that occurred before Wanda arrived. This film is beautifully shot and constructed with characters you find yourself getting behind that, on the first reveal, are not ones that you would find yourself caring about. This movie is filled with so many perfect human imperfections that its hare not to root for it as a whole.

Fucking Idiots – I’m so happy that I got to the absurd comedy corner of the festival and this movie was so much fun to unpack from its completely ambiguous opening to its slide down to its inane finish. Not everyone will appreciate a film like this but it really landed with me very well, all the lines working with me but maybe it’s because I’m a fucking idiot as well and they’re just preaching to the choir. The story to it seems simple, a seemingly money-strapped couple heads to their wealthy friend’s house for dinner, looking to propose some sort of deal and, as the audience, we are totally unclear of what their intentions are but we know they’re nervous. Honestly, that’s the only plot morsel I’ll feed you but the trifecta of Ben Cotton, Christina Sicoli and Stephen Lobo is hysterically funny as I felt the grin on my face getting wider and wider as the movie progressed and the absurdity reached a fever pitch. I thoroughly loved this movie and I think it was swinging for my audience, especially as a blu-ray collector. That will make more sense if you see the movie but, what do I know, I’m a fucking idiot.

NO TRAILER FOR THIS ONE

Nadia, Butterfly – Retirement must be a hard transition to go through and must be even harder to do when you’re at a young age and still have so much future ahead of you. When you’re an athlete it must be doubly worse, a problem I will never know. French Canadian writer and director Pascal Plante delves into this notion in this new drama about a Canadian Olympic swimmer who finishes her final race, a relay in which her team wins the bronze medal, and then the real implications of her decision start to dawn on her, pushing her to some self-destructive actions with all start with her alienating her teammates during their celebration that night. Plante does a phenomenal job in illustrating our main character Nadia’s isolation that she feels deep inside and does a great job of keeping everything so internal with actress Katerine Savard giving a knockout performance in the process. The weird irony that struck me was that this takes place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, an event that, due to COVID-19, hasn’t even taken place. Maybe this movie is set in the future.

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