Film Review: EGGS AND SOLDIERS (USA, Drama/Family)

Directed by Imelda O’Reilly, this twenty-minute American film follows the story of a single Irish father and his two children on Christmas. Having smuggled his younger son, Marco away from his mother on Christmas Eve to spare him from that abusive home, he goes out drinking and leaves his elder son, teenage Ned, in charge of babysitting. Treeless and foodless on Christmas, Ned tries to watch his little brother and calm his own personal love life at the same time.

When Ned leaves to get groceries to cook dinner for Marco, he finds his dad drinking in a bar and confronts him and things get ugly. When the father finally returns home drunk and kicks Ned out, Ned decides to make sure Marco’s Christmas won’t be ruined.

 

This is a difficult and complex story of family. It paints complex characters with flaws and compassion. Marco and Ned’s father is abusive and alcoholic, but also attempted to save them both from more abusive home-lives than the one he provides. Marco and Ned, it seems, are simply swapped from one bad situation to another. Yet in the middle of this dark and dangerous world the two brothers manage to create a happy holiday together. EGGS AND SOLDIERS is a story that reminds us that happiness is not a privilege reserved only for the wealthy and affluent. Joy, love and goodwill towards your fellow human are things that transcend race, bloodline, economy. “Family” is something found in every home where love lives.

PLAYED at the January 2018 Comedy/Drama Festival. 

Review by Kierston Drier

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

EGGS AND SOLDIERS, 20min., USA, Drama/Family
Directed by Imelda O’ReillyA single Irish Dad forgets the tree on christmas eve. Ned the older son’s humanity is challenged when he risks everything to give his younger brother Marco a real Irish Christmas.

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Film Review: THE BENEFACTION, USA, Drama

THE BENEFACTION is a strong dramatic tale of an Indian Taxi driver, doing everything he can to eek out a living for himself, his wife and their young and ill daughter. While he treats his daughter to presents and promises of her bright future in dance, his relationship with his wife suffers- for his doting on their daughter is an expensive habit they can ill-afford while they fall behind on payments for his taxi cab. He thinks he may have found a turn of fortune when a patron leaves thousands of rupees in his cab- but his initial idea to gamble the money to try to raise more funds for his daughter’s’ health care needs backfires when his cab is repossessed before he can use the money. Soon after, his daughter collapses and is rushed to the hospital with a prognosis they can not afford. But our hero’s fate turns one more time.

 

Life is all about choices. THE BENEFACTION is a powerful and moving film that demonstrates this concept with excellence. Excellent performances and strong and engaging story elements keep this film gripping and meaningful. A multilayered story that ties in duty, fate, faith and karma, THE BENEFACTION leaves a powerful message that we all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.

Review by Kierston Drier

THE BENEFACTION, 27min, USA, Drama
Directed by Nikhat Powell

Protagonist Rishi, a young Indian taxi driver struggles to make his payments on his sole means of livelihood, his taxi. While under the threat of repossession, he finds his daughter falling prey to an unknown illness that could take her life. When his taxi is repossessed and his wife is ready to leave him, he must make choices that will affect his future, and the life of his daughter.

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Film Review: BRIDGING COLOR, 2017, South Korea, Drama

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SHORT FILM played at the October 2017 STUDENT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Review by Kierston Drier

BRIDGING COLOUR comes to us by director Chang Hyun Park, and hails from South Korea. An emotionally driven piece delivered with passion, flawless execution, and dramatic balance, it tells the tale of a highly accomplished and ego-centric Art teacher whose arrogant self-righteousness gets the better of him when he slowly begins to go color blind.

 

A perfect story of poetic justice and the compelling nature of art subjectivity, BRIDGING COLOR is ultimately a metaphor for ableism and inclusion. The rules we rigidly adhere to are able to shut us out as much as they pull us in.

 

There is a seamless flow to BRIDGING COLOUR, one that takes our hero down a perfect hubris-fueled poetic fall. One of the best parts of this film is the exceptional acting of the hero, who is able to have the entire audience feel compassion and sympathy for him- although he never totally breaks his clearly flawed character. Completely with an emotional and touching ending BRIDGING color is a well made and perfectly put together piece of cinema.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

BRIDGING COLOR, 23min, South Korea, Drama
Directed by Chang Hyun ParkAn arrogant, world famous painter becomes colorblind and realize that what he see is not always what it seems.

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MOVIE REVIEW: THE MAN WHO DOESN’T SLEEP (Drama, Dramamentary)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

A fifteen minute Mockumentary-Drama coming out of Canada, directed by Jana Stackhouse, follows a young filmmaker Sam as she explores the curious condition of her neighbor. Her neighbour, as it turns out, doesn’t sleep- or can’t sleep. Taken with the fascinating story of this medical miracle, Sam devotes her time to following her neighbor Craig and his story. What would you do with your newly found time, if you no longer had to sleep?

What she finds is an amazing introvert who is a jack of all trades, from Cosplay to self-taught chef, to botanist, to one-man-band, Craig can do it all- although he can’t do any of it perfectly. And slowly, the shy recluse opens up to his new friend. But when Craig suddenly begins to feel exhaustion, Sam learns that when he finally does sleep, he may sleep most of the rest of his life to make up for what sleep has been lost. Determined to finish her film and give Craig a chance to tell his story, they carry on the documentary. Craig however, must come to the realization that a person can live in a dream world, even if they never fall asleep.

 

This is an exceptionally well balanced film. The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep has emotional and genuine performances, charming tone and a beautiful mixture of subtle comedy and heart. It’s slightly unbelievable premise is easy to accept because of how authentically it is portrayed. A meaningful message is left with anyone who takes the time to enjoy The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep– life may be short, but it is worth being awake for.

THE MAN WHO DOESN’T SLEEP, 15min, Canada, Drama
Directed by Jana StackhouseA young filmmaker finds herself in a new apartment where her neighbour is literally up all night. Her anger turns to curiosity as she sets out to make a documentary about ‘The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep.’

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MOVIE REVIEW: GRACE & GRIT (Thriller/Drama)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

A dramatic and emotional roller coaster of a film, Grace and Grit directed by Olivia Applegate and Blair Bomar, is a strong cinematic endeavour. Following one woman who battles with two different personas inside her, we see the passionate internal battle of torn emotional soul. Our heroine stands at the crossroads of a broken and abusive relationship, fighting within herself as to stay or leave. Stay, and attempt to turn something broken into something beautiful, or leave fueled with anger and fury. A detailed portrait of human complexity, this piece will make you feel and think.

 

The actresses who play Grace (Blair Bomar), Grit  (Olivia Grace Applegate) and the “Woman” (Kelly Frye) are to be commended for their strong, tense and compelling performances. Superbly cast, the performances alone make this film a must-see.

 

Grace and Grit is an emotional gut-punch, because the real struggle of the film is not the relationship the woman has with her abusive partner, but the relationship she has with herself. Her equally torn sides each speak with their own twisted but compelling logic. It is hard to choose a side, and hard to look away as our heroine is swept up in the emotional chaos within her. Striking, bold and emotionally ambitious, Grace and Grit is not to be missed.

GRACE & GRIT, 3min, USA, Thriller/Drama
Directed by Olivia ApplegateA twisted celebration of me, myself and I.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A MONSTER CALLED CHARLES (UK, Fantasy/Drama)

ECSTASY BOULEVARD played to rave reviews at the July 2017 FANTASY FEEDBACK Film Festival.

“Winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Festival.”

by Kierston Drier

Some films make you laugh with joy, or awkward discomfort. Some break your heart. A MONSTER CALLED CHARLES will do both. This fifteen minute film hailing from the United Kingdom follows a young impoverished boy being raised by circumstance more than by his otherwise neglectful mother- who spends more of her time entertaining Johns than she does caring for her young son and infant daughter. In the wake of any real stimulation, our young hero heads out into the woods to make his own adventures, and discovers a monster there, who he names Charles.

Stunningly shot with a keen attention to detail, incredibly well edited, and seamlessly constructed, this piece also has an exceptional performance from the young male lead. His choices may seem confusing to the viewer at first glance, but his rationality, given his life circumstances, becomes all too clear soon enough. A tale that literally answers the question of what is worse- the monsters you know, or the monsters you don’t.

For a movie told through the eyes of child, and (potentially) their vivid imagination, A MONSTER CALLED CHARLES has a surprisingly intricate level of emotional complexity. Our characters, from smallest to largest, are deeper than mere black-and-white stereotypes. A piece worthy of detailed discussion, this film can be enjoyed at face value as well. It pays homage to childhood classics such as Where The Wild Things Are and even Peter Pan and the viewer can end the piece knowing the a happy ending has been found. A deeper message within the story might be showcasing what the effect of poverty and neglect can have on children.

Whichever way you choose to interpret this film, it is a powerful piece to watch. It would be a tragedy to miss A MONSTER CALLED CHARLES.

 

A MONSTER CALLED CHARLES, 15min, UK, Fantasy/Drama
Directed by Richard Paris WilsonThe story of a Boy who lives in a caravan park with his Mother, and a Monster who lives in a nearby woods…

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Movie Review: HOW TO BE ALONE (Israel), LGBT, Drama

Played at the June 2017 LGBT Toronto Film Festival

Directed by Erez Eisenstein

Relying on “How To Be Alone” – a self-improvement audio book – a heartbroken woman, struggling with her lonesome existence, decides to embrace solitude and to learn how to survive without love. 

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Review by Kierston Drier

 HOW TO BE ALONE is a pensive film. Coming to us from Israel from director Erez Eisentein, this is a piece that makes you question introversion and healing from a broken heart. Our heroine, a newly single woman gets a self-help audio book about solitude, and following its’ advice, beings to live a life alone.

Regardless of the stoic, yet occasionally humorous advice the audio-book gives her, our protagonist can not seem to shake the image of her lover from her mind. Can her life be lead to it’s fullest without love in it? Will this book with it’s lonely advice deliver her to happiness and self-sufficiency, or will it drive her crazy?

This piece is a thinking piece. It takes us in, and engulfs us in our hero’s world so completely, that by the emotionally packed final scenes we are left to wonder if the book is real, or if it is all in her head.

A testament to good filmmaking, by the end of this film, we watch our hero take a plunge to get her lover back, and we are filled with the overwhelming urge to tell her to stop. Only a well crafted film could make a viewer feel so strongly for the hero’s well being.

Eisenstein has done an excellent job on examining love and human relationships through the lenses of solitude, while crafting emotion with a character that rarely speaks in the film. Silence and space are characters as much as our hero and her lover are. An introspective and poignant cinematic short.

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Movie Review: WAJOOD (SELFHOOD) (India) LGBT, Drama/Romance

Played at the June 2017 LGBT Toronto Film Festival

Directed by Vishal Srivastava

Revolves around a young hijra’s (trans-woman) life, who seems to fancy herself with an auto-rickshaw driver. When confronted by the elders of her community about her unrealistic expectations, she goes on a quest to know if somebody will ever fall in love with her or is this thought as naive as told by everyone around her? 

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Review by Kierston Drier

WAJOOD, or Selfhood, is a powerful short coming to us from Indian by director Vishal Srivastava. Bright with colors and boasting gorgeous cinematography, this piece sheds light on a little known part of Indian culture. The Hijra, known as the Third Gender, are a community of transwomen who are often misunderstood and shunned in society.

Yet WAJOOD takes a look at this section of society kind, compassionate and sensitive eyes. We follow our heroine through her emotional journey of dissecting her sense of self. She pines for the attractive rickshaw driver near her community, and wakes every morning to watch him. But her community members remind her that there is no future for people like herself. Her fate has been determined- she is not to be understood, and not to find conventional love. Her life, will be a lonely one. Yet a kind stranger will change her mind about what it means to be who she is.

What make WAJOOD special is it’s bravery. It tackles a topic worthy of discussion, about a group deserving of attention. More than that, it stands before adversity and shouts for recognition. But it will charm you as it does so. It will charm you with its stunning images, it’s entrancing music and it’s’ undeniably lovable and sympathetic main character.

If you watch WAJOOD, you may not identify with my main character right away, but you will love her. WAJOOD reminds us that we are far more similar that we are different.

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Movie Review: THE 3RD TRY (USA) LGBT, Drama

Played at the June 2017 LGBT Toronto Film Festival

Directed by Alfonso Rodriguez

An emotionally unstable lesbian couple tries to find solace after experiencing a traumatic loss.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Review by Kierston Drier

In 5 short minutes, this USA film directed by Alfonso Rodriguez will pull you in, break your heart and fill you with hope. Efficient, cutting and a packing a home-run in right in the “feels” The 3rd Try is nothing short of breath taking in its simplicity.

We barely know our main characters, except that they are couple desperate to turn their loving union into a bigger family, but for whatever reason they are never able to have a child.

Part of what is excellent about this piece, is that is not weighed down with expositional, and unnecessary dialogue. It doesn’t tell you what is exactly causing the couple’s’ pain- just that, once again, they are not having the baby they were hoping for.

It is a pain not exclusive to the LGTB community, but a pain certainly not foreign to the community either. The hope, joy, anxiety, disappointment and pain associated with expectation and loss of a child is universal. That is one of the strongest parts of this piece- anyone who has ever contemplated the love and loss of anticipated parenthood is included in this couples tragedy.

But what sets this film above others is its unquestioning resilience. Every tragedy must include hope. And this piece does not fail to deliver that either.

If you have a heart, The 3rd Try will move you. Exceptionally well acted and exquisitely cast, beautifully simply and utterly impactful, this is a film not to miss.

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Movie Review: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST (Canada 2016) **

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portrait_of_a_serial_monogamistPORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST (Canada 2014) **
Directed by Christina Zeidler and John Michell

Starring: Robin Duke, Masa Lizdek, Grace Lynn Kung

Review by Gilbert Seah

This spritely romantic relationship comedy is exactly what the title promises. It is the story of monogamist, Elsie (Diane Flacks), in her thirties who cannot, no matter how much she tries change her ways. A slight twist to the story is that Elsie is a lesbian.

When the film begins, Elsie has just broken up with her girlfriend, Robyn (Carolyn Taylor). Robyn has not taken the breakup too easily. It is tough for them to remain friends without fighting.

Meanwhile, Elsie has a fling or two while trying to survive her job was aTV producer after a corporate takeover. She is offered advice from friends and family. As the saying goes: “Everyone has a advice and everyone is full of sh**”

That is basically what the entire film is about. It is pretty boring for those who cannot connect with the main character. Whether one does depends, but to Flacks, credit, she is not a bad actress.

The film is shot in Toronto and the directors are proud of the fact. Torontonians will recognize familiar sights like the local streets, streetcars and buildings. The film also showcases local musical and art talent.

Diane Flacks inhabits her role comfortably, passing off as a desperate lesion trying not to be desperate. She creates a likeable character and a very human one. She is pretty though not overtly pretty and smart, though human enough to make mistakes and smart enough to recognize them. She takes a little time to figure out what she wants. In other words, she is a normal person, a nice Jewish girl from Toronto (as she describes herself) in the ordinary sense. Of the supporting cast, Robin Duke stands out as Elsie’s mother, a nice Jewish woman from Montreal.

The film ends up an ok watch, but there is nothing exceptional about the film, which is a shame. Everyone tries very hard, as is evident in the last scene of the cat funeral. During the cat funeral, Elsie and Robyn have it out amidst the ceremony. It is definitely a far-fetched scene that is funny at parts, but feels too artificial.

There are no sex scenes, thanks goodness for that! The actresses are pretty but not sexy enough that the audience would like to watch them doing it in the nude. The kissing scenes are sufficient and short.

PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST, made in 2014 finally reaches the big screen after making its round across the country’s LGBT festival circuit. The film is unlikely to become a big hit, but its target audience is clearly the LGBT festival audience and maybe the local Toronto art scene.

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