September 19, 2020

TIFF Day 9: A Gorgeous Adoption Drama from Japan & Deadpan Hebridean Bleakness

Wildfire [UK/Ireland, Cathy Brady, 3.5] After going missing for a year, a bipolar woman (Nika McGuigan) drops in on her sister (Nora-Jane Noone), opening the wounds of shared tragedy. Raw, unsubtle family drama against the backdrop of Northern Irish politics as Brexit threatens a fragile peace.

The film is dedicated to the memory of lead actor McGuigan, who died of cancer last year.

40 Years a Prisoner [US, Tommy Oliver, 4] Documentary recounts the 1978 standoff between members of radical Black back-to-nature organization MOVE and Philadelphia police through the efforts of the son of two of the group members to secure their parole. A strong emotional hook greatly assists in telling a tenaciously complicated story.

I would like to have seen more on the genesis of the group and the first stages of their conflict with the mayor and police. So much needs to be unwound in the 1978 standoff that the even more astonishing story of a 1985 confrontation, which resulted in Philadelphia authorities dropping a satchel bomb from a helicopter, killing 11 and burning down 65 houses, goes unmentioned here. Another doc I haven’t seen, Let the Fire Burn, focuses on that part of the story.

True Mothers [Japan, Naomi Kawase, 4.5] Parents of a kindergartner react with dismay when a woman contacts them claiming to be his birth mother. Luminous, delicate drama of shifting perspectives.

Limbo [UK, Ben Sharrock, 4] Syrian oud player grapples with guilt over family left behind as he cools his heels with other refugee claimants at a center in the bleak and isolated Outer Hebrides. Moments of deadpan humor and stark landscapes layer this exploration of displacement.

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.