Sunday, May 28, 2017

SIFF Sighting: A DATE FOR MAD MARY (Comedy, Ireland)

Tonight I screened A Date for Mad Mary, starring Seana Kerslake and Tara Lee.

Mary (Kerslake) has just been sprung from prison—she's been there for six months on an assault charge. When she gets out, her community doesn't exactly welcome her with open arms, but she does her best to acclimate.

Her friend Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) is getting married and Mary is the maid of honor. Though Mary has this prestigious job in the ceremony, Charlene has elected not to give her a plus one. Mary wants to prove that she needs the invite, so she invents a boyfriend and quickly begins looking for a man who will go as her date.

As they say, hilarity ensues.

When she thinks she may have found a good fit, things go awry and a new friend vows to help her find someone else.

At this point, we see there's more to Mary than the cursing, angry-at-the-world girl that's been on display for the first half of the film, and we begin to sympathize with her.

The story goes from a comedy that's rough around the edges to a sweet romance, to a heartfelt drama.

I enjoyed the emotional roller coaster and very much hope to see the film's lead in more things—she's definitely a rising star.


A Date for Mad Mary screened at the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

SIFF Sighting: ORIGINAL BLISS (Drama; Germany)

Tonight I screened Original Bliss, starring Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur.

Helene (Gedeck) is suffering a crisis of faith. She's lost God, and as a result, she battles insomnia, which takes a toll on the rest of her life. She goes through the motions like a robot, every day watching her marriage fall apart even more.

When she hears the calming voice of a famous psychologist on the radio, she fakes a visit with her sister and embarks on a trip to Hamburg to meet him. There, they develop an unconventional friendship that could be the best thing that ever happened to her or her worst nightmare. You have to stay to the end to find out which.

In the meantime, there's graphic sex, domestic violence, death, humor and even a bit of twisted romance in this film. I can safely say I wasn't bored (though at times I questioned what the hell I was watching).

Fans of the phenomenal film The Lives of Others will remember the leads from that, and marvel at how great they're acting is, since they're playing such wildly different characters here.

Go see it. You won't be able to look away.


Original Bliss screened at the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

SIFF Sighting: THE ODYSSEY (Drama; France)

Last night I screened The Odyssey, starring Lambert Wilson and Pierre Niney.

Anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s undoubtedly remembers the magical underwater expeditions of famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau. He was the first to take television cameras deep into the ocean and share a world only a fraction of the population would ever get to fully experience.

This film shows what the real man was like, how he treated his family and his crew.

Jacques (Wilson) did truly love his craft. He lived for the adventure and the thrill, and thrived on the fame his films and programs brought him. Unfortunately, much of that was at the expense of his wife, Simone (Audrey Tatou) who stayed by his side despite his serial infidelities, and his sons—one who shared his adrenaline-fueled passions and one who did not. At some point it became more about the money than anything else, and money sometimes brings out the worst in people.

The story here (as you may have guessed from the title) focuses mostly on the fractured relationship between him and his son Philippe (Niney), who became a key part of his productions yet resented his father for all of his faults along the way. Philippe operated with a code of integrity that his father didn't appreciate until much later in life.

The actors here portray their subjects in an intimate, authentic way and the screenplay—based on a book written by Cousteau's surviving son—helps guide their performance.

Aside from some pacing issues, this is worth a look; if not just for the family story, but for the gorgeous underwater scenery that is laced throughout.


The Odyssey screened at the 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

SIFF Sighting: HELLO DESTROYER (Drama, Canada)

Tonight I screened Hello Destroyer, starring Jared Abrahamson.

When an introverted hockey player, Tyson (Abrahamson), is pressured into playing the game violently, the consequences he suffers last long after the game is over.

In this quiet, dark film from Kevan Funk, it's evident that he went to art school instead of film school. The scenes following the violent event the movie centers around are intentionally devoid of color and claustrophobic; the time the camera spends meditating on angles is a bit much.

That said, the story is solid and the acting is good. Tyson is so emotionally scarred from what he's endured that he serves as a stain on the community, which quickly casts him aside and assumes no responsibility for his actions.

We're silent observers to his crescendo of pain, which builds like a disease for which there is no cure. Unfortunately, though the story is fictional, it's completely believable and similar situations probably happen more often than we realize.

The filmmaker mentioned in the Q&A following the screening that he wanted to emphasize institutionalized violence (choosing hockey as the metaphor because of his mostly Canadian audience). 

I'd say he accomplished his mission.


Hello Destroyer screened at the 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival.

SIFF Sighting: THE UNKNOWN GIRL (Thriller, Belgium)

The Dardenne brothers are incapable of making a boring film and this one is no exception.

When a woman becomes obsessed with a young girl's death, her preoccupation with the event gets her into trouble.

Their gift for capturing life as it is—getting interrupted while cooking, answering someone too quickly—is unparalleled and it shines here.

Don't let the slow pace discourage you from seeing it. The end is worth the wait.


The Unknown Girl screened at the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival.