TIFF13: Oculus, How I Live Now, Sarah Prefers to Run

More TIFF13! In this batch, a triumvirate of lead female roles that are wonderfully complex and unusual!

directed by Mike Flanagan (who did the Q&A along with the writer and the producer)

Amy Pond! Starbuck! A creepy-ass haunted mirror! Part of the Midnight Madness programme at TIFF (but seen by me on a sunny Tuesday afternoon), Oculus is a fun horror-thriller about a sister and brother duo dealing with the torment unleashed by the evilest mirror in the history of mirrors. The film interweaves the past (the siblings at 10 and 12 when Shit Went Down) and the present (the siblings at 21 and 23, with Kaylie determined to Set Things Right), and the movement between the timelines is wonderfully creepy and integral to the way the mirror sucks the life outta ya. I don’t like gore, and there was very little of that in here — just enough to make me close my eyes and cover my head with my scarf once or twice. Mostly it’s just TENSE TIMES. A lot of fun, if you’re into this sort of thing, and the young cast — particularly Annalise Basso — was great. And a word of warning: if your plants die, then you should probably kill all the mirrors in your house. Just in case.


How I Live Now

directed by Kevin MacDonald (who was not there, but sent along a little note that Saoirse Ronan read; the Q&A was with the totally stunning and eloquent Saoirse, George MacKay, and a producer whose name I do not recall!)

Little did I know that after Oculus‘s red-haired 10-year-old girl who is fierce and awesome would I get another ginger girl of equal awesomeness in Harley Bird as Piper. (I wish my name was Harley Bird.) How I Live Now is adapted from the Meg Rosoff novel (which I have not read): Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) arrives in the English countryside to stay with her cousins, but it’s not long before everything goes to hell in a handbasket thanks to the outbreak of war and the imposition of military rule. It’s beautifully shot, with strong performances from the whole lot of the kids, and at times it’s harrowingly realistic in terms of what living in a war-torn world would be like. Of course, loads of people are living in a war-torn world right this second, and How I Live Now sticks us North Americans/Brits in the shoes of those already displaced (which is such a weak word for having everything you know taken from you) by war. All that said, it’s not all glum and horrifying. (Though I was reminded of 28 Days Later…minus the zombies.) There’s a beautiful love story too, as well as the personal evolution that Daisy experiences, ending up a far cry from the lost-in-her-head, super styley city girl who arrives in the first act of the film. Two thumbs up for me!


Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers to Run)

directed by Chloé Robichaud (who did a Q&A after the film, along with Sophie Desmarais, who plays Sarah)

I seem to like every single movie I see, but I really liked Sarah Prefers to Run, and Sophie Desmarais was so understated and pitch perfect and [insert all the adoring adjectives here] in the film. Twenty-year-old Sarah likes to run. (And she’s fast.) Despite her mother’s misgivings, she moves to Montreal to run for the McGill track team, living with her former co-worker Antoine (who is an effing great character). It’s a simple film, plot wise, but incredibly rich in exploring Sarah’s choices and experiences and ‘interior life’. There’s a humour to it and a subtlety to the story and performances. Sophie Desmarais makes this quiet, plain, focused woman mesmerizing. An incredibly well made movie. See it if you can!

Only three films left! How will I spend my time when TIFF is over?!


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