September 14, 2020

TIFF Day 4: Masterful Performances from Frances McDormand and Mads Mikkelsen

Nomadland [US, Chloé Zhao, 5] When her town closes down in the wake of its gypsum mine’s closure, a self-reliant widow (Frances McDormand) moves into her van and joins the ranks of the nomad subculture, people who rove the US, taking whatever hard work they can get and living out of their vehicles. Rooted in social realist cinema, marked by a triad of transcendent qualities: poetic visual beauty, an indelible central performance and a deep love for the characters from the writer/director.

This is from Searchlight, formerly Fox Searchlight, now part of the Disney empire, so you’ll get a chance to see it. Likely as part of awards season, whatever the heck that’s gonna look like this year. Normally I don’t spend festival slots on titles with distribution but that’s out the window in the COVID-verse.

(At the moment cinemas are open, with distancing, here in Ontario but if you look at the numbers we’re in the early denial phase of a reimposition of lockdown measures. Whatever the deal is I don’t plan to be inside a theater in any foreseeable time frame.)

Her next project is a huge pivot from poetic verite dramas like this and The Rider— Marvel’s The Eternals. 

Memory House [Brazil, João Paulo Miranda Maria, 1] Racist harassment from German co-workers drives dairy worker to vengeance. Blunts the political anger of its subject matter with enervating pacing.

Another Round [Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg, 4.5] Burned out high school teacher (Mads Mikkelsen) embarks with three colleagues on an experiment to enhance their performance by maintaining a blood alcohol level of 0.5% throughout their days at work. Not only an original booze movie, but a big one, full of turns and ambiguities, and an utterly masterful performance from Mikkelsen.

Shadow in the Cloud [New Zealand, Roseanne Liang, 4] When an WWII RAF Flight Officer (Chloe Grace Moretz) boards a Samoa-bound cargo plane bearing a mysterious package, a monstrous gremlin on board is just one of the surprises. Enclosed space horror-action thriller tips an 80s-style hat to Carpenter and Cameron.

Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus.