WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN – Review by Cortland Jacoby

Art has personified the heart for centuries, ascribing the organ verbs to convey feelings of loneliness and wanting. Think of songs like Hungry Heart or Heart of Glass. First-time director Kim Albright takes that metaphor and literally objectifies it in her adaption of Julia Lederer’s play With Love and a Major Organ. An ambitious effort, the film exists in a world where the human heart is made of an inanimate object and one can literally rip it out to avoid emotions.

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THE QUEEN OF MY DREAMS (SXSW2024) – Review by Leslie Combemale

It’s quite a feat to bring joy to a storyline that grows out of grief, but that’s one of the delights of writer/director Fawzia Mirza’s The Queen of My Dreams. Her film centers on a disconnected mother and daughter, Mariam and Azra, who might seem diametrically opposed in many ways, but find common ground through a shared journey of loss. It is a technicolor character study full of music and emotion, and it’s as fun as it is poignant.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 23, 2024: SEAGRASS

Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Growing up is hard. Losing a parent is hard. These human truths are at the heart of Japanese Canadian writer/director Meredith Hama-Brown’s directorial debut, Seagrass. The moody, introspective drama centers on a family that comes to a significant crossroads during their time at a self-development retreat on the rugged British Columbia coast, raising and grappling with complex questions related to identity, connection, and self-esteem.

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AN UNFINISHED JOURNEY – Review by Liz Braun

Afghan women ceased to exist three years ago when the Taliban resumed control of their country. An eye-opening new documentary on gender apartheid in Afghanistan delves into how more than 20 million women lost their freedoms overnight. An Unfinished Journey — much of it set in Canada — concerns the uphill battle refugee Afghan women face as they attempt to get the attention of the international community and feminist groups to help their community. These women who were able to flee the chaos in Afghanistan are working hard to help those left behind.

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FLOAT – Review by Betsy Pickle

No kind person would want to beat up on a movie like Float, a Young Adult romance with more noble aspirations than a 1970s message film. It’s populated by relentlessly likable characters who are diverse in age, ethnicity and gender identification, and even the erstwhile villains have good intentions. Plus, it’s set in Canada, the nicest country in the world. Float is inarguably a chick flick, but it tackles some relevant themes for young and maturing females, and they could make worse choices from current cinema fare.

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BETTER DAYS – Review by Liz Braun

Better Days is a no-budget Canadian movie distinguished by some sharp writing and a terrific performance from Sonja Smits. The film is billed as a comedy about a woman learning to cope after her husband’s death, but it’s really a tale about grief and self-discovery, so the underpinnings are dramatic. Better Days is from indie writer/director Joan Carr-Wiggin, a filmmaker who has the cojones to make women the focus of her storytelling, and often middle-aged women, at that.

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RU (TIFF 2023) – Review by Liz Braun

Kim Thuy came to Canada as one of the million “boat people” fleeing Vietnam in the late 1970s after Communist victory in the war. Thuy wrote of her experiences in Ru, a 2009 bestselling memoir that was eventually translated into 30 languages and won her a slew of awards all over the world. One person who championed the book was TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey, who represented the book at the 2015 edition of Canada Reads, an annual battle-of-the books event broadcast nationally by the country’s public broadcaster, the CBC. It seems fitting that the superb film version of Ru had its world premiere at TIFF 2023.

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Kim Thuy on RU (TIFF 2023) – Liz Braun interviews

Award-winning Canadian author Kim Thuy recently had the experience of seeing her best-selling novel, Ru, transformed into a film of the same name. She watched along with TIFF audiences who were present at the world premiere. Ru is Thuy’s own story about coming to Canada in childhood as one of the “boat people” who fled Vietnam in the ‘70s after the fall of Saigon. The vignettes and closely observed moments in her memoir are captured and woven together into a beautiful film from director/writer Charles-Olivier Michaud, co-writer Jacques Davidts and cinematographer Jean-Francois Lord.

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SOLO (TIFF 2023) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Anyone who hasn’t seen the magnetism or star power of Canadian actor Théodore Pellerin needs to see his performance in Solo, writer/director Sophie Dupuis’s new film. It rightly made a splash at its TIFF premiere, where it was shown in the prime Gala spot. An examination of toxic relationships both familial and romantic and a celebration of queerness and found family, it will ring true in both joyful and painful ways to many audience members who seek it out.

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BLACKBERRY – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

While obviously an enormous hit and critical and commercial success, one of the most viscerally uncomfortable things about David Fincher’s The Social Network is how even before the film begins we know that the bad guys win: Facebook will become an enormous, zeitgeist-defining phenomena, and the patently unlikable Zuckerberg (played to perfection by Jesse Eisenberg) will become one of the richest men in the world. Less The Social Network’s rise-and-rise story, BlackBerry is a more classic rise-and-fall tale, and with that comes a degree of empathy that renders us perhaps more susceptible to the charms and quirks of the film’s central cast.

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