Where The Crawdads Sing: Talk about disappointment! I had seen a trailer for this by chance and it looked intriguing, so I was hopeful when I saw that it was out and available. Where to start? Set in the 1950s in small town North Carolina, a young man is found dead in the swamp. The place of death is below a steel park tower overlooking the swamp, and close to the home of a local young woman who has raised herself. She is played by Daisy Edgar-Jones. We learn this background after she is arrested on suspicion of murder and jailed. A local retired lawyer decides to help her out with her defence. The young Marsh Girl, as the town calls Kya, had an abusive father who drove away her Mom, and then all brother’s and sisters. She ends up at a young age taking care of herself. Inexplicably she has perfect teeth, cleaned clothes and looks no worse for wear. She is able to harvest mussels and sell them to the local general store/marina who take pity on her and wish to help her all that they can. She doesn’t go to school, but teaches herself. Later a young man , Tate Walker, teaches her how to read and write. Then after a romance heads off to school. Things happen.
Kya is approached by another local boy, Chase Andrews. He is the young man who ended up dead. The plot continues in a rather formulaic way, with few surprises. Chase is a bit of a cad, and makes Kya’s life very difficult. Kya also has a talent for nature and drawing it. She was encouraged by Tate to find a publisher for her nature drawings but she doesn’t think on it much until much later. The courtroom drama ensues. Lawyers go back and forth and the case is made for the jury to decide. This was disappointing because I expected more. A couple of observations: the young men are caracatures instead of fully written characters; it seems all women need to do is makes themselves reclusive and men will just fall from the sky into their laps; cooking, cleaning and hygene skills must be easy to address given how nicely Kya cleans up; I want to purchase an outboard motor like she has because it’s very good on gas, and never needs any repair of any kind! I cannot recommend this.
The End of Sex: This is a Canadian comedy filmed in Hamilton back in January. It has Canadian stars, unseen by me before, and was my Saturday night TIFF film to begin my festival. This was better than expected. Set in Montreal, there is a couple married ten years who have two daughters who are heading off for a week at Winter Camp. For a Torontonian, I have never heard of Winter Camp but according to the Director and cast after the viewing, it is a thing in Alberta, Quebec and other parts of the country. The kids head away and the parents look at one another wondering what they can possibly do. After an unsuccessful meet in the bedroom, they openly wonder what they can do to spice things up for their sex life.
A number of scenes follow which shows over their kid-free work what they are looking to do to add some spice. None of the thoughts help. I laughed a few times. There was some clever writing (Jonas Chernick the male star) with a good supporting cast. The movie outlines issues that aren’t usually spoken about in modern marriages, when being married with children. It also reflects that relationships change from early dating and marriage to when children do arrive and you grow and mature. You aren’t the same people you were when you started the journey together.
One of the greatest aspects of TIFF is that you have the cast and some crew (like director and producer) there to talk about the movie and the process of making it. The director, Sean Garrity, spoke about how this movie was originally called Menage A Trois, but then was shelved for other projects. Then it was ressurected with the cast coming on board. The two lead actors had worked together ten years earlier. So there is a full movie theatre, and the insight into the film, all of which adds to the movie experience. TIFF can be hit and miss at times, but this was a hit for me. I didn’t expect a lot from a Canadian production. Funny we have excellent actors who are Hollywood superstars, like Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling or Rachel MacAdams, but it seems that there is a aura at times of CBC all over these productions. I didn’t feel that. I am so happy to be back to crowds, line ups, chats in the lines about movies, full theatres and conversations with star. TIFF has such a buzz in the city with an energy downtown that is palpable. Just walking around King Street and Roy Thompson Hall area is terrific! More movies to come.
Untold: Flagrant Foul: Similar to the Bad Sport series, Netflix has this series addressing other sports-related issues. Flagrant Foul involves an NBA referee who was providing his insight into the winners of upcoming NBA games to his betting friends. He had insider information about who the referees were and how they interacted with the two teams, and he was pretty good in his picks. He even worked some of the games in which he was providing his suggestions. He claims he never directly bet himself. He was paid a sum of money for each correct pick. The bettors have different than the referee himself in recollecting events. No surprise. The real question is whether he was an isolated rogue element, or whether the NBA itself had any input into the results of the matches, especially when dealing with the playoffs. The league would provide areas to focus on for the referees and this referee claims he just “did what he was told”. He maintains the NBA was interested in these results too – more games in playoffs mean more TV and gate revenue. All this to say, those fans at home who think on occasion that the refs have it in for them, well sometimes in the past, they certainly did!!!
Patrick and the Whale: Patrick Dykstra is a corporate lawyer, who manages to travel the world looking for whales about 300 days a year. A childhood fascination for the blue whale lead him on his initial searches as an adult, but he has become far more interested in sperm whales. For Patrick, they are more social, as well as being far more vocal. This remarkable documentary brings his story of connection to the big screen in ways that are just astounding.
For most of us, I think our experience with a sperm whale is limited to the 1851 novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The white whale is a fierce and dangerous animal that Ahab wishes to kill. The thought of someone free diving amongst a pod of such whales would be completely foreign. Patrick manages to swim amongst many of these massive mammals, who have the largest brain in the world, with ease and with little fear but a healthy respect for their size and strength. We see that there is an intelligence at work, and the two species are able to communicate with one another through actions. Patrick feels the emotion and building relationship with a couple of different whales over his years working with them. He is mindful of the individual whale, trying not to view her (in both cases) as the subject of a science experiment. She manages to communicate back in no uncertain terms.
The movie has no CGI. It is filmed mostly with Patrick’s hand held camera and that of the other diver taking his shots. The film generated over 100 hours of footage (around 138 terrabytes of data) which the directed had to review and edit into the 72 minutes of the film. There are drone shots, underwater shots, in studio shots with Patrick voicing what his experiences were. This is deeply personal for Patrick, and he sees a basic lack of understanding of the sperm whale world as an impediment to moving forward with protecting them and their environments. The whales spend two-thirds of their lives at ocean depths that we humans just can’t view them to understand their behaviour. The sperm whale population is shrinking, mostly due to human interference. While not being preachy about it, Patrick and the filmmakers have delivered their message to the audience about preservation. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and saw things that were just amazing. Seeing so many whales coming together, and acting in ways so expressive and connected was unexpected and enlightening at the same time. I hope that this can find distribution or streaming beyond TIFF and other film festivals so more people can view it. If you can find it, catch it!! This shows at TIFF once again on Friday September 16th at 12:05PM.