FLIPSIDE (TIFF 2023) – Review by Peg Aloi

Milcha struggles to reckon with having abandoned the project and with the trajectory of his creative life. Helped along by the subjects of his unfinished films, and utilizing an astonishing array of black and white imagery that veers from the pedestrian to the sublime, from dark to whimsical, Milcha explores what it means to live an artistic life that repeatedly falls short of his dreams. He probes, often with irony and self-deprecating humor, the connections between ambition and motivation, desire and creativity, and the inescapable existential dread that accompanies the realization that time has passed faster than we could have believed possible.

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DEFIANT (TIFF 2023) – Review by Peg Aloi

This enthralling documentary is a timely examination and chronicle of the war in Ukraine, beginning in the days before the Russian invasion. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Karim Amer and produced by Odessa Rae, Defiant is fast-moving yet thoughtful, look at the many issues defining a volatile war that has the potential to affect all of Europe. The juxtaposition of the deeply personal traumas affecting the Ukrainians under attack versus the global perception of the war is writ large here, and it is this dramatic contrast that gives powerful depth and scope to the film.

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THE GOOD MOTHER – Review by Peg Aloi

This thriller stars Hilary Swank as Marissa Bennings, a journalist for the Albany Times Union in upstate New York. Swank’s performance is fairly understated, with an inscrutable accent that apparently is supposed to telegraph “upstate New York,” though it seemed forced. There are some narrative gaps and a rather abrupt ending that leaves many questions unanswered. Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, who co-wrote the script with Madison Harrison, is a young filmmaker with some solid storytelling skills. But this story, rooted in the director’s hometown, was at times both predictable and also somewhat confusing. The set-up is strong, the story relatable, but too many threads are left dangling.

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BABY RUBY – Review by Peg Aloi

The film’s knife-edge balance of horror and reality is effectively rendered by filmmaker Bess Wohl, boldly exposing the universal and primal fear that accompanies giving birth, and the general lack of support and understanding faced by new mothers. Jo’s eagerness to become a mother is abruptly undercut when she goes into labor and her experience of giving birth is portrayed as a painful, confusing, bloody fever dream. But Baby Ruby, when she arrives, is beautiful and perfect. Her ears stick out a little, she has an incredibly expressive face and lovely pale blue eyes. She also cries. A lot.

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FLUX GOURMET – Review by Peg Aloi

In Flux Gourmet, Peter Strickland’s most recent effort, a collective of sound artists are invited to develop their art in residency at a posh retreat in the countryside. At first glance, the place appears to be bucolic and, though small, luxurious. But there’s something odd about the setup. The rooms feel more dimly lit than they should be, and there’s no clear sense of temporal specificity. It might be the ’60s, or right now.

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MEN – Review by Peg Aloi

I wish I could state unequivocally that this is a film perfect for this moment in time, and perhaps it is. But not in a good way. It may be that director Alex Garland has, well, a thing about women. Consider his screenplay for 28 Days Later (directed by Danny Boyle), a clever twist on the zombie genre that posits a pandemic of rage that infects the blood, set loose on the world by a female animal rights activist. Even the title hints at the undertones of menstrual madness.

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