TIFF 2018 Review: THE SISTERS BROTHERS (USA/France/Romania/Spain 2018) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

The Sisters Brothers Poster
Trailer

In 1850s Oregon, a gold prospector is chased by the infamous duo of assassins, the Sisters brothers.

Director:

Jacques Audiard

Writers:

Jacques Audiard (screenplay by), Thomas Bidegain (screenplay by) |1 more credit »

Director Audiard’s films have always benefited from oddball protagonists from his first film, De Battre mon coeur s’est arrêté to DHEEPAN to UN PROPHETE.  Two weird protagonists create havoc in his latest film adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s award-winning western novel called THE SISTERS BROTHERS.  

Two brothers with the last name ‘sisters’,  Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) are bounty hunters sent to kill a prospector (Riz Ahmed) accused of stealing from a tyrannical crime boss (Rutger Hauer). Their journey takes them through an encounter of myriad complications from San Francisco and through the Sierra Nevada: witches, bears, a madam who owns a town and commands a murderous army of fur trappers, and a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) tracking the same peculiar man they are.  It is a great adventure, also for the audience to see Audiard excel with different material.  

Also, the film is quite funny with biting humour and a bit of message on the lessons in life.  And as in all his films, the goal of his protagonist is to have a stable life.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OwvqKwTKmE

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Film Review: DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT (USA 2018) ***1/2

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Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot Poster
Trailer

On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life.

Director:

Gus Van Sant

Writers:

John Callahan (based on the book by), John Callahan (story by) | 4 more credits »

DON’T WORRY HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT is a comedy-drama biography film based on the memoir of the same name by John Callahan.  Gus Van Sant (DRUGSTORE COWBOY, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, GOOD WILL HUNTING, GERRY, ELEPHANT) wrote the screen adaptation and directed the film.  

When the film opens, John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) is addressing an audience after winning some award for his cartoons.  Callahan is in a wheelchair as a result of a car accident involving drinking.  But Callahan is still drinking though he is attending an AA group led by Donnie Hill (a totally unrecognizable Jonah Hill).

The film unfolds in non-chronological order, centring on Callahan before and after the accident, including his rise to fame with his cartoons.

DON’T WORRY will inevitably be compared to the French film, Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon), a 2007 biographical drama based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of the same name, on a man’s disability and rehabilitation.  The film depicts Bauby’s life after suffering a massive stroke that left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. Bauby is played by Mathieu Amalric.  Bauby is totally conscious but unable to move all parts of his body but his left eye that he used to write the memoir.   The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the César Awards, and received four Academy Award nominations and is considered by critics as one of the best films of the decade.

DON’T WORRY never reaches the high standard hit by Le Scaphandre et le Papillon but goes towards a different direction, stressing more on the emotional than physical comeback.  Whether Callahan can have sex is one of the main conditions examined.  The main difference between the two films lie in the difference in the two main characters.  In the French film, Bauby was strong and fixed on recovery while in this film, Callahan is self destructive and wallows in self pity.  This is not helped by the fact that Callahan is still an alcoholic.

The film also considers the emotions that Callahan goes through right after the accident in the hospital.  Ironically the drunk driver, Dexter (Jack Black) that caused the accident walked away with only a few scratches.  Callahan met Dexter by chance at a bar and spent the night drinking heavily and driving.  The film fails to mention what happened to Dexter after the accident.  But Callahan asks key questions like: “Why is this happening to me?” – a question that is invariably asked by probably every person undergoing such a tragic accident.  Callahan also confesses to a worker, Annu (Rooney mara) that he promised God that he would do anything and or would make a pact with the devil to become normal again.   These key emotions differentiate DON’T WORRY from the French film.

Callahan’s birth as an artist only begins at the film’s one hour mark.  A few of the cartoons are revealed to the audience and to Callahan’s credit, they are quite funny –  a kind of THE FAR SIDE by a guy in a wheelchair.

Van Sant’s DON’T WORRY encompasses the best of his ‘lonely’ films like ELEPHANT and GERRY and ‘hidden talent’ films like GOOD WILL HUNTING, offering audiences gut wrenching insight in his soulful biography of a troubled human being.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BwxeOzSx8A

 

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Film Review: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (UK/USA/France 2017) ****

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You Were Never Really Here Poster
Trailer

A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.

Director:

Lynne Ramsay

Writers:

Lynne Ramsay (screenplay by), Jonathan Ames (based on the book by)

 

Scottish director Lynne Ramsay has been praised as one of the best living directors.  She has made excellent films the best being RATCATCHER and the last one WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.  She got into front page news when she did not show up on the first day of shooting of ANNE GOT A GUN, abandoning the project completely and causing the producers to sue.  In YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, Ramsay is one of the producers which means she cannot walk out on herself.  She presented the unfinished version of the film last year at Cannes winning her Best Screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix Best Actor.  Totally deserving!  The film is short at 90 minutes, concise and a marvel!  This is a dramatic thriller written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, based on the novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames.

Joe (Phoenix), a combat veteran and former FBI agent with post-traumatic stress disorder, is a hired gun who rescues trafficked girls.  He cares for his elderly mother in his childhood home in New York City.  Joe has graphic flashbacks to his childhood and past in the military and FBI.  Director Ramsay loves flashbacks as evident in her previous films, and flashbacks allow her carte blanche to do whatever she wishes to shock the audience.

The trouble starts when returning home from a job, Joe is spotted by the son of Angel, the middleman between Joe and McCleary, his handler.  Joe meets with McCleary, and expresses his concerns about his safety potentially being compromised due to Angel’s son being aware of his address.  McCleary then informs Joe of his next job: a New York State Senator, Albert Votto, has offered a large sum of money to discreetly find and rescue his abducted daughter, Nina.   

The plot thickens with a lot of people getting violently killed.  This is director Ramsay’s first thriller though death, killing and the psychology of killing has been dealt with in her previous films particularly in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.  But she treats this film with dead seriousness.   Her fascination with themes of grief, guilt and death is present here as in her other films – a strength in her filmmaking.  Apparent is the trauma her protagonist undergoes in the film in his path towards redemption.  

Phoenix delivers a remarkable performance similar to the one he did in Paul Anderson’s INHERENT VICE.  That role appears to have prepped him for the role of Joe in this film.  Judith Roberts is also memorable playing Joe’s mother.

In WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, Kevin, in the final scene tells his mother that he finally discovers the reason he murdered his schoolmates in the gym.  When asked what the reason is, Kevin remarks that he had forgotten.  YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE also contains a remarkable ending and a bright one (not to be revealed in this review.)  A remarkable ending for an even more remarkable film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1APnf3Y_W8

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