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« TIFF Review: "Gloria Bell"| Main| Queer TIFF: "Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy"»
Sunday
Sep 16 2018

Women on the Verge at TIFF: abandoned wives,kindergarten teachers,and activists

by Nathaniel R

Why does anyone make movies about men?No,really.Female characters are inherently more fascinating.That's not only because they're allowed a wider range of feeling onscreen due to repressive gender norms which discourage men from embracing a full range of emotion,but because women's stories are more infrequently told and,thus,fresher. Herewith four recommended movies about women on the verge of either nervous breakdowns,or major crimes.

WILDLIFE and WIDOWS
Chris has already reviewed these intense dramas about abandoned wiveshereandhere.We'll have plentiful opportunities to discuss them during Oscar season but I just want to second his surprise rave ofWildlifebecause it's spot-on.I'll admit,though,that I'm ever so slightly cooler onWidowsthan I initially thought. I attended the very starry premiere (seriously that cast!) and the screening and movie were both so electric that I was like 'favorite of the fest.wow' But it doesn't linger in quite the way you'd expect given how exciting it is in the moment (it's going to be a big hit).Still,it's the film from TIFF that I'm most eager to see a second time.

WOMAN AT WAR
Woman at Waris the story of a childless choir director Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in a no-nonsense charismatic turn) who moonlights as a fearless environmental activist in her spare time.Halla has caused enormous problems for a local corporation by knocking out their power again and again.She evades capture with impressive physical skill,careful planning,and paranoid routines;there's a funny recurring shot in which she places her cel phone in a refridgerator before speaking to friends in person about secretive matters.Just as her corporate sabotage is beginning to make real world waves,she learns that she's going to be a mother via adoption proceedings she began years prior.How can she do both?

The Icelandic writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson arrived withOf Horses and Men,an indelible Oscar submission in 2013.This tense,twisty,and provocative sophomore feature is even better and confirms that that was no mere fluke.He's a singular talent,able to imbue sly visual and narrative humor with idiosyncratic depth of feeling.His boldest move inWoman at War,one that risks being a distracting comic gimmick but somehow elevates the picture into the sublime,is an on-camera orchestra.They give the picture a score that doubles as both interior monologue and greek chorus,commenting on but also entangled in Halla's complex possibly disastrous passions.Highly recommended!

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Maggie Gyllenhaal is terrific and troubling (no surprise.That's kind of her thing) as a teacher who becomes obsessed with a student.Her favorite little student composes beautiful poems on the spot with little warning that the muse has struck.Fearing that his prodigious talent will wither and die if it's not nurtured she begins to step outside her proper place in the classroom and walks right into his life outside.For all of Mrs Spinelli's madness,the complicating factor is how right she often is when her behavior is all wrong.Despite the fascinating central character there's something that feels incomplete or slight about this intriguing drama that's remained difficult to put a finger on.Regardless,the final scene haunts and a great ending can go a long way.

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Reader Comments (6)

I second the love for Woman at War.Original,funny,trim.The lead actress is giving me some serious Melissa Leo vibes in that photo though!

What was the fifth movie though?

September 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Woman at War sounds incredible.Hope it opens up here.

September 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Because men are hotter.

September 16,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Gosh this year's Best Actress race is brutally competitive.Rosamund Pike just staked her claim at Toronto.We have Close,Mulligan,Gaga,Pike,Roberts,Kidman,Aparicio,Knightley,Collette,Davis,Layne,McCarthy,Theron,and whoever else I am forgetting.Gyllenhaal?Winstead?Youza.

September 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

How could I forget Olivia Colman!?

September 16,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Woman At War is so good.

What a performance.No nonsense is right.

March 25,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

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