HONEYDEW – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Honeydew sucks us into an intoxicating, delirious fever dream, where past and present collide in a nightmare zone of fucked up families and a veritable rainbow of other dysfunctional interpersonal relationships. And if that’s not enough, there’s a truly peculiar Lena Dunham cameo which has to be seen to be believed.

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THEY REACH – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

They Reach might not be the most original film you see in 2020, but wow is it fun. It is almost impossible with this upbeat, even perky supernatural teen adventure film to not acknowledge obvious points of reference such as Stranger Things, The Goonies and IT, Directed by Sylas Dall who co-wrote the film with Bry Troyer, what They Reach lacks in originality it makes up for in heart, and sometimes – as is very much the case here – that is all you need.

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AN OLD LADY (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

If elder abuse is a taboo subject that is rarely afforded the serious consideration and action that such horrors demand, then elder sexual abuse is even more so. There’s a sense of sadness that courageous and well executed film about such a difficult subject may pass unseen because the taboo nature of the subject may turn an audience off. But that is what makes this film so urgent; An Old Lady tells us something we don’t want to hear in a way that makes us forget why we refused to listen for so long.

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TRUE MOTHERS (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

True Mothers is first and foremost a movie about feeling in every sense of the word. Naomi Kawase’s emphasis on ‘feeling’ is harmonized as physical and emotional; the film is punctuated by a steady stream of close ups of hands, highlighting their gestural capacity to communicate complex feelings without words, but also to connection with another person through touch.

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ENEMIES OF THE STATE (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Investigative journalist and filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck has released her third documentary, Enemies of the State, a confidently executed film that voices a fundamental lack of confidence in the very concept of the ‘truth’ itself when it comes to human beings, their strengths, their passions and their very real darknesses. The film follows the tight-knit DeHart family, devout Christians whose lives were turned upside down when their home was raided in 2010 by the FBI on the grounds that adult son Matt had solicited child pornography.

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SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A woman in extremely difficult circumstances fights to survive and have her professional expertise recognized on her merits in an industry where disgusting, violent sexual predators rise to the top. Shadow in the Cloud is a satisfying genre ride that barrels along at a cracking pace, never sacrificing its thrills for her unwavering focus on gender politics, power, abuse and the perils of being a woman in a male-dominated workplace.

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QUO VADIS, AIDA? (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Quo Vadis, Aida? is a devastating, urgent and brilliant film about the Srebrenica genocide, immersing us deeply in a world of bureaucratic chaos where the human cost of a complete administrative failure is made explicit. Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanic treads a careful line between not shying away from the precise horrors of what happened, but not exploiting or sensationalizing them, either.

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ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (TIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller Nicholas

As early as Lois Weber and Ida Lupino, women have shifted professionally from acting to directing. This is no generalized segue to Regina King and her directorial debut, One Night in Miami: as a director, she is that talented, that important, that pioneering. In 2020 we can save ourselves enormous energy and drama by just handing King and One Night in Miami all the major awards now and save ourselves the circus of pretending any film this year will better it.

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TOVE (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

While not a particularly radical biopic in terms of style and structure, filmmaker Zaida Bergroth’s Tove is a loving portrait of Tove Jansson, an international cultural icon who learns the truth about art, authenticity and love during the period when her beloved Moomins would shift beyond her inner life and become even today deeply loved pop cultural icons.

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UNDER THE OPEN SKY (TIFF20) – Review by Alaxendra Heller-Nicholas

This film is unambiguous in its status as a social issues melodrama, with all the pros and cons that combination implies. But at its heart is Koji Yakusho’s moving performance. Under the Open Sky may not be the most original film of the year, but it is undeniably touching, due in large part to the combination of director Miwa Nishikawa and actor Kôji Yakusho’s empathy for complex characters.

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