The penultimate day of the 2012 AGH BMO World Film Festival took us through the home stretch in a limping shuffle. The day’s trio of films wasn’t a complete bust, but today’s selection of films was certainly the most melancholy of the festival.
Marécages (Wetlands) is a Canadian film, filmed on and set on a rural Quebec farm. Gabriel Maillé plays Simon, a teenage boy just beginning to explore his dominance and his sexuality.
Simon watched his younger brother drown, which his mother (Pascale Bussières) has always blamed him for. When Simon’s father (Luc Picard) is crushed by a tractor, Simon once again has to live with the guilt and blame for a family member’s death.
What begins as an interesting examination of a tumultuous mother-son relationship soon devolves into standard drama, with a new man stepping into the stepfather role and Simon rebelling against him. By the end of the movie (dark undertones of the finale aside), Marécages (Wetlands) has failed to create interesting characters or much of an original story.
TAKE THIS WALTZ
Take This Waltz arrives with the anticipation built in by the fact it stars 2011 Best Actress Oscar nominee Michelle Williams and a mostly serious Seth Rogen, and is the second feature directed by Sarah Polley (whose other movie was the heart-wrenching Alzheimer’s drama Away from Her).
Like Marécages (Wetlands), Take This Waltz begins seeming more original than it ends up being. Margot (Williams) is married to Lou (Rogen), and the two appear to have a pretty good relationship; they talk, they cook together, and the banter they have feels absolutely real.
Appearances are deceiving, though, for once Margot discovers a more traditionally handsome man across the street (Luke Kirby), she begins spending more and more time with him, while Lou waits at home for his wife, oblivious to what she’s doing behind his back.
If Lou were a jerk, like Ryan Gosling in Williams’ own Blue Valentine, one could understand Margot’s motives and justification. Yet Rogen naturally imbues Lou with a likability that projects him into the sympathetic role, leaving Margot as the unsympathetic character the audience is still shackled to.
By the time of the film’s end, no character is happy, and none in the Westdale Theatre audience seemed to be, either.
Cleansing the palate to an extent was Luc Besson’s The Lady, a bio-pic about the woman at the heart of Burma’s decades-long fight for democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi. The Lady may not be much lighter in tone than Marécages (Wetlands) or Take This Waltz, but it’s skilfully crafted, well acted, and gorgeous to watch.
Michelle Yeoh earned much-deserved awards attention for her portrayal of Aung San Suu Kyi, probably the most accomplished performance of her already impressive career. David Thewlis is also fantastic as her husband Michael, loving enough of his wife to let her put a cause ahead of himself.
The Lady’s biggest problem is simply its bloated nature, covering 61 years and running 135 minutes. Riveting performances and lush cinematography ultimately can’t distract from the weight of the complete tale and the gruelling subject matter. Yeoh is downright radiant in a career high and The Lady is a well-made bio-pic, but it falls short of being a truly great true story.
Day 10 will conclude the World Film Festival with The World Before Her, Boy, and Piña.