Ethan Vestby

Let Me Fall (Baldvin Z, Iceland/Finland/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 9, 2018

By Ethan Vestby Turns out the kids aren’t all right—that’s the primary takeaway from the feels-every-second-of-it 136 minutes of Let Me Fall, a new piece of Scandinavian miseryporn that one hopes could be the corrective to this year’s addiction drama  (and fellow TIFF selection) Beautiful Boy, or at least that Chalamet Oscar vehicle’s trailer. Epic…

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The Day I Lost My Shadow (Soudade Kaadan, Syria/France/ Qatar/Lebanon) — Discovery

By Ethan Vestby / September 6, 2018

By Ethan Vestby Beginning and ending in darkness lit by candlelight—including a rather abrupt, cruel capper that seems to recall nothing so much as the iconic fade to black that concluded The Sopranos—The Day I Lost My Shadow is a rather arch experience. Yet looking upon it in retrospect, if anything one wishes for a…

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Angel (Koen Mortier, Belgium/Netherlands/Senegal) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 4, 2018

By Ethan Vestby A film that’s initially mysterious enough in its jagged rhythms, shifting perspectives, and bold colours to stir feelings of possibly unearthing a hidden cinematic sibling to Claire Denis or Bertrand Bonello, it’s highly unfortunate that by the end of Koen Mortier’s Angel one only gets the sense of a work that doesn’t…

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Custody (Xavier Legrand, France) — Platform

By Ethan Vestby / September 9, 2017

By Ethan Vestby There’s something promising in the nearly 15-minute passage that opens Xavier Legrand’s Custody, which charts a hearing between a divorced couple regarding custody of their 11-year-old son, the mouthpiece avatars of their respective lawyers going off while the idly waiting, pained-looking parents sit in silence. So boldly dry with its ping-ponging legal…

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Miami (Zaida Bergroth, Finland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 2, 2017

By Ethan Vestby With the demise of TIFF’s Vanguard program—the one with the ostensible mission of bridging the gap between art- and  grindhouses—it’s worth wondering what exactly makes a satisfying mix of the two, and if it’s even really worth pursuing in most cases. Looking at a film that would’ve likely been at home in…

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Disappearance (Boudewijn Koole, Netherlands/Norway) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 1, 2017

By Ethan Vestby Drawing easy comparisons to Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata with its piano motif, strained mother-daughter relationship, and general Scandinavian coldness, Boudewijn Koole’s  Disappearance seems to exist solely to be the umpteenth case in an argument that, yes, a certain brand of ennui and alienation will always be in vogue on the festival circuit.…

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Barakah Meets Barakah (Mahmoud Sabbagh, Saudi Arabia) — Special Presentations

By Ethan Vestby / September 16, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Belonging to a burgeoning new sub-genre known as “cinéma de selfie-stick” (or at least that’s what I’m calling it), the Saudi romantic comedy Barakah Meets Barakah has the temerity to tackle what most would, with a snicker, refer to as “How We Live Now.” Thankfully, this framework is used to present a…

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Old Stone (Johnny Ma, Canada/China) — Discovery

By Ethan Vestby / September 14, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Cab driver Lao Shi (Chen Gang) has his worst fare ever when an inebriated passenger unexpectedly grabs his arm, causing his car to strike a motorcyclist. Quick to act when an ambulance won’t show up, Lao Shi rushes the injured man to the hospital. Yet his good deed only brings him misfortune,…

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My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea (Dash Shaw, US) — Vanguard

By Ethan Vestby / September 12, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Any feature-film debut boasting a stacked cast of celebrities tempts us to conjure up the image of a big-deal producer calling in as many favours as possible. Yet detecting the reasoning for the number of marquee names involved in the freshman effort of comic-book artist/writer Dash Shaw perhaps derives from its script…

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Nelly (Anne Émond, Canada) — Vanguard

By Ethan Vestby / September 6, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Curiously placed in Vanguard despite a biopic pedigree seemingly guaranteed a spot in the bottomless pit of the section known as Special Presentations (unless the programmers of Midnight Madness’ “cooler older sister” thought sexploitation was the “genre” supposedly being turned on its head), Nelly is, regardless, a case of a film that…

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Jean of the Joneses (Stella Meghie, Canada) — Discovery

By Ethan Vestby / September 4, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Perhaps it’s not fair to Jean of the Joneses to interpret it as a direct answer to the lily-white “millennial artistic type makes their way through Brooklyn” narratives of recent times, be it Girls, Frances Ha (2012) or Listen Up Philip (2014). Yet as it opens on its eponymous Jamaican-American heroine (Taylour…

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The Girl With All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Ethan Vestby / September 3, 2016

By Ethan Vestby With its dystopian setting housing superhuman teens and zombies, The Girl With All the Gifts seems like a movie generated by a Young Adult Entertainment algorithm. And though it begins with the promise of possibly resembling Joseph Losey’s monster-child science-fiction horror classic These Are the Damned (1962), it unfortunately (and, given its…

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Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces (Yousry Nasrallah, Egypt) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 2, 2016

By Ethan Vestby In the small Egyptian town of Belqas, two brothers work for their father’s catering service:  Reefatis a lovable oaf; Galal lives with the disgrace of being a draft dodger. Polar opposites, they’re nevertheless both defined by their romantic entanglements: Reefat has his eyes on Shadia, a rich divorcee who can’t bring herself…

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