Our Little Sister (2015)

Impression: This one was good but odd. I felt like I was watching a beautiful, thoughtful film which kept switching to a soap opera/sitcom/cartoon. Kind of like a Japanese Gilmore Girls, but with three older sisters instead of a mother and their younger half sister sharing a beautiful but crumbling old house with a garden in a seaside town. The coolness/cheesiness line was tough to walk sometimes. There are some visually stunning sequences here. The bicycle ride through the cherry blossom tunnel is pretty high on the list of most beautiful scenes ever filmed. Not much of a plot, but definitely a mood and leaving with a feeling of having just spent 2 hours in Japan, in that town, in that house. At the Q&A all was explained: it was an adaptation of a manga. Had it been animated I would have been much more in tune with some of its quirkiness, but maybe it would have also lost something. Not sure I did it justice, still a movie very much worth seeing.

Facts: Three Japanese girls in their 20’s meet their teenage half sister and decide to adopt her.

 

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One Floor Below (2015)

Impression: It’s a story about what an ordinary guy does when he hears something he wasn’t supposed to, and how he deals with his conscience and outside pressures. And even though, during the Q&A, the director said he was not so much interested in society but what goes on in his protagonist’s head, I think the society he lives in very much influences the protagonist’s ideas of right and wrong and leads to his (in)actions. The way he relates to his neighbors, the job he has, the way he relates to people he encounters at that job, all of those can be read as either the result of the internal struggles he is going through because of this one event, or maybe, all these external interactions have influenced his thinking and cause him to react the way he does. This one had me thinking for a long time.

Facts:  After overhearing an argument and its aftermath in an apartment below, what is one to do?

Extra: One of the downsides to only doing rush lines at TIFF is that sometimes volunteers don’t have their act together and let you in after the movie has already started. Usually not a big deal, except when it’s a psychological thriller and something very important happens in the first minute of the movie. It also would maybe not matter if this was not a Romanian movie, and every single Romanian movie I’ve seen aside from being really good, has had me feeling like I have no idea what will happen next. So I felt like this feeling of disorientation was just something Romanians do. Of course the nice couple next to me, let me know what had happened in the beginning as the end-credits were rolling, and I was able to put it all back together. Definitely a different experience than seeing the movie the way it was intended.

 

 

Sparrows (2015)

Impression: Icelandic, set in the far north small town during the summer, so there is no night. Icelandic summer means non-stop daylight, and the light with which the film is painted is unlike anything I have seen, everything is sharper, and more stark.  All sense of time is lost, and events seem to happen and escalate a lot faster than they would somewhere where action takes place over 12 hour stretches followed by breaks.  Somehow, everything is amped up. The plot follows a teenager who unwillingly comes to stay with his dad and grandmother for the summer. The otherworldly Icelandic landscape is captured really well, and is a great background for his coming to terms with adulthood in a series of progressively more heartbreaking episodes. Definitely a candidate for the “shoot your kneecaps off” category of depressing films. Still, very good!

Facts: A teenage boy comes to spend a summer with his estranged father and grandmother in the far north of Iceland.

 

The Wait (2015)

Impression: The best movie I saw at TIFF 2015, and the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s Piero Messina’s first feature. He was the assistant director on The Great Beauty, though. From the first stunning spiraling shot of a Jesus statue, to the ending shot of Juliette Binoche, this movie is not only gorgeous throughout, but it masterfully builds tension. And it’s not because you don’t know what will happen, it’s exactly because you DO know from a few minutes into it what must happen, that this is incredible. It’s hard to say anything more about the plot without ruining it, so I will stop there. Oh yeah, and Juliette Binoche is the greatest living actor. There is an amazing preview of this one on youtube which shows you how gorgeous it looks but reveals absolutely nothing of the plot. Watch it!
Facts:  A woman in a gorgeous Italian villa hosts her son’s French girlfriend.  No more can be said without revealing the plot.