TIFF 2017 Movie Review: DARK RIVER (UK 2017) ***1/2

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Dark River Poster
Following the death of her father, Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to her home village for the first time in 15 years, to claim the tenancy to the family farm she believes is rightfully hers.


Clio Barnard


Clio Barnard

Stars: Ruth WilsonMark StanleySean Bean

Director of one of the best films five years ago, THE SELFISH GIANT, DARK RIVER is another drama set in the poor north of England. The setting here is a sheep farm in Yorkshire.

Slice (Ruth Wilson) returns to the farm after a 15 year absence. She left as she was abused by her father, as shown in flashback throughout the film. Her bother, as the neighbour says, is an idiot, and not only does he no listen to reason or Alice’s advice to improve the farm, which we assume does, he is abusive and at one point attacks her while drunk.

Things get worse when he wins tenancy of the land and orders Alice out. It is a tough life for anyone working a farm, made worse with rising working tensions. Barnard’s DARK RIVER shows the emotional anguish Alice goes through.

DARK RIVER is not as satisfying as THE SELFISH GIANT, as it has less story, but the film is no less dramatic. Ruth Wilson is really good as Alice and deserves the BFTA Award for Best Actress.

Clip from the sets: https://teaser-trailer.com/dark-river-movie/


dark river.jpg

Film Review:DRONE (Canada 2017)

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drone.jpgIdeologies collide with fatal results when a military drone contractor meets an enigmatic Pakistani businessman.

Director: Jason Bourque
Writers: Paul A. Birkett, Jason Bourque
Stars: Sean Bean, Patrick Sabongui, Mary McCormack

Canadian director Jason Bourque directs this new thriller shot entirely in his native Vancouver, British Columbia. The film centres on a drone pilot who conducts covert operations from his hometown.

DRONE begins predictably with an overhead shot of a good kill, similar to the recent film about drones which is also called GOOD KILL. It is an effective device – the overhead shot. But the problem in this film, is that it has been used in drone films all too often already and the taut atmosphere is slowly diffused after the first segment.

An innocent girl is taken out by mistake somewhere in Pakistan. The distraught father (Patrick Sabongui), obviously seeks revenge. He is seen later on in the film, suddenly apparently a successful businessman, Mr. Shaw (without explanation) stalking the contractor that affected the kill. This contractor is Ian (Brit Sean Bean sporting an American accent in a Canadian made film) who’s father has just passed away. His wife is having an affair. His son is too quiet for comfort. Ian never visited his father regularly in the senior home. He has issues with his younger brother. Yes, Ian has family problems. Are all this necessary?

Too many incidents are crammed into an apparently what should be simple film with a solid purpose. At the funeral home, the sibling rivalry emerges but its origin is never explained. How Neil got into the drone business is also unexplained. The poor relationship between Ian’s son and wife are also left vague at best.

The constant intercutting among Pakistan and the United States is disorienting. The audience is never sure whether they are supposed to be sympathetic for be Ian or for Mr. Shaw.

The film goes about with Ian’s problem of writing his late father’s eulogy for the funeral. “Allow the story of your father have true meaning.” is the odd advice the enemy gives to Ian for the writing of his father’s eulogy.

The film is so bad, it ends up an interesting watch, but only to see how many more mistakes can be found in the film.

Performances are ordinary at best. What can one expect from a bad film with a bad script? It is also odd to phantom the reason a Canadian film would be tackling an American subject, especially when the subject of a guilty American at war (also tackled in Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER) has been down and done so well before.

The film has a climatic takedown at the end. But the film is confusing in whether Ian will pay for his crime.

Ian says at one point int he film to Mr. Shaw when his wife keeps talking about other matters, “We better get back to the business (selling of the boat) at hand.” This is advice the director should have taken for himself so as not to get too distract from all the too many elements in the script. This supposedly taut thriller ends up diluted with poorly executed family drama.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UqxCUrT5-Y


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