Film Review: THE DEATH (AND LIFE) OF CARL NAARDLINGER (Canada 2016) ***1/2

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The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger Poster
When a mild-mannered IT specialist discovers that a man with the same name as his is missing, he goes looking for him in the Toronto ravines. But instead of finding him, he finds the missing man’s identical twin brother.


THE DEATH (AND LIFE) OF CARL NARRDLINGER is one of those quirky little films about quirky little characters that succeeds in a quirky sort of way.  Consistent, meticulous and occasionally insightful, this was the kind of Canadian film that shot directors like Atom Egoyan and Ingrid Veninger to fame.

Carl Naardlinger (Matt Baram) has spent most of his life answering questions – on the telephone.  When your computer does not work – he is the IT consultant you call. Patient, intelligent and kind he is a voice in the interconnected ether – touching the lives of thousands of people he will never see, or meet. The film opens with Carl Naardlinger in action, doing what he does best on the telephone, though the caller goes on and on (comically) about her life rather tan seeking the solution from him.

The next scene is set in the Naardlinger home where Carl celebrates his birthday with his wife, Pam (Grace Lynn Kung).  Pam is a real estate agent, over meticulous over her work and also in maintaining the perfect relationship with her husband.  They eat healthy, speed walk daily and tell each other everything that happens daily.  Well, almost.  After Carl blows out the candle on his cake, they are interrupted by a knock on the door by missing persons person, Detective Renton (Anand Rajaram).  A man with the same name as his has gone missing and is presumed dead.  Carl instinctively feels related to the stranger that bears his own name.  Pam, his wife, is unnerved by a shocking coincidence of her own, when their annoying neighbour dies after she wishes it. It seems the Universe is playing a cruel joke on them both. Things get stranger when instead of finding the missing Carl Naardlinger, Carl finds his identical twin brother Don (Mark Forward) who happens to be in town for a conference.

If all these events sound implausible, director Schleemer resolves the puzzle neatly at the end.  But her film is not to be enjoyed for the puzzle but by the odd behaviour of each character in her story.  Two other characters, a couple Paula (Beatriz Yuste) and Larry (Ryan F. Hughes) a non so perfect couple, acquaintances of the missing Carl come into the picture.  The one common trait among all of Schleemer’s characters is neediness.

Of all the actors creating all these oddballs, Grace Lynn Kung is terrific as the perfectionist Pam.  Kung won the Best Actress ACTRA Award for her role in this film.

The film is shot around Toronto in the city area and in the ravines where there still are lots of green.  The script make good use of Toronto and its surroundings with familiar names (to Torontonians) of areas and streets mentioned in the film.

Given the unknown names in the cast, the odd plot and the small budget, the film might no attract big enough a crowd to give this film the credit it deserves.


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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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