It’s the greatest time of the year in the lower mainland and it definitely isn’t Christmas or at least for the non-movie-hungry public. Yes, it is the glory of the Vancouver International Film Festival, a place where I have had the most fun in my entire life but, sadly, I am unable to attend in person this year. Having to adjust to covering this virtually again, it is a relief that I am still able to give some reviews as I have already seen some incredible features and I’m kicking it all off here with my first five viewings of the festival.
Triangle Of Sadness – Those who are veterans of the Vancouver International Film Festival know that entering a viewing of a Ruben Ostlund film is like no other and that firebrand of satire is exactly what we get again. The mind that brought us the marital doom of Force Majeure and the lampooning of the art world, the Swedish filmmaker is here to take on the one percent and he’s coming with a kill shot. The film, through the conduit of a model/influencer couple in the midst of a spat, tells the story of an ill-fated cruise that has a Russian oligarch, his wife and his mistress, an elderly couple living off the riches of being weapons manufacturers and so many more questionably wealthy individuals, under the command of a captain battling with his ideals, alcoholism and an unhealthy dose of nihilism. Once the snowball starts rolling on the chaos of this film, nothing and nobody is safe from being taken down more than a peg, leading to an utterly unpredictable third act.
Broker – Nothing is more calming to my cinema center than a Hirokazu Koreeda film and with his last film Shoplifters so recently in my glowing books, I was really wondering how he would follow that up. The decision he made was to pair with actor Song Kang-ho, now internationally known for Parasite, for another quietly reflective drama that puts the human condition in the front seat at all times. The film follows a young woman, played with deftness by Ji-eun Lee, who, after abandoning her baby on the steps of an orphanage, decides to find a home for the child instead with the help of two former orphans. As the journey through South Korea continues, the small group starts to bond and become more of the family that they are pretending to be from time to time as a cover all the while two detectives trail them for a crime the young woman may have committed. I fell hard in love with this movie, one that warmed my soul and solidified that, yes, even if I’m not in Vancouver right now, I am still at VIFF.
The Beasts – Denis Menochet, for me, is mostly known for that incredible opening of the Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds but his intensity is something that has made me take notice of anything he has done since. This is what drew me to this simmering drama, a film that I had no previous knowledge of which served for the best experience of it. The film follows Menochet as a French farmer who has moved to the Spanish countryside of Galicia to harvest their dreams. When the two vote against the installation of windmills in the area, it puts them at odds with the town but mostly with their neighbours who request the local drinking hole and start to bully him in an escalating fashion. As he fights back to document the terrorizing that these men are doing to him and his farm, the urgent nature of the situation careens out of control leading to an incredibly shocking moment. The way this story is told really took me aback and I was really fascinated by how terrifyingly menacing these people could be. I also have to give some love to actress Marina Fois as Menochet’s wife who does so much heavy lifting in the third act.
Aftersun – With a splash of A24 across the screen I sank deep into my comfort zone, knowing I was about to watch something special. What I didn’t know was that I was going to experience something that had an atmosphere on it’s surface that I would relate to along with a wistfulness that comes with age that would resonate with me. Told through the prism of a woman reminiscing through old vacation videotapes, this tells the story of a preteen Sophie who goes on a vacation with her father, played by Irish actor Paul Mescal, to a picturesque resort. A sort of autobiographical film from debuting writer and director Charlotte Wells, this has to have been a long thought of production because it unfolds on screen with the prowess of a filmmaking veteran. The exploration of character along with beautiful shots and a soulful drive makes Wells a director that I will be looking for whatever comes next. This is one of the top films of this year’s festival.
Klondike – The timing of this new Ukrainian film couldn’t be more important with the conflict between that country and Russia being at the forefront of the news for almost all of 2022 but this story is inspired by true events from 2014, a just as pivotal time. Knowing nothing about this film, I had no idea what I was heading into and just how deep the devastation would go. The film follows a Ukrainian farmer and his pregnant wife living on the borderlands between Russia and Ukraine who are getting ready for the imminent arrival of their first child. Just as they are about to leave, a plane crashes which subsequently rips the side off of their house. Rebels, separatists and family members all try to convince the couple to leave, some finding a possibility to make the incident political or something of their cause while the army just sees it as leverage to take what little these two have left. This film is gripping and deeply emotional with a final couple of scenes that left me in a heavy ugly cry for about fifteen minutes. I have been able to stop the tears since but this will stick with me for the rest of my life, easily.