The Post-TIFF Recap+Review: Before We Go

via the Toronto International Film Festival

via the Toronto International Film Festival

 

This is the third post in a twelve part series called The Post-TIFF, where I review one of the twelve movies that I screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Check back every week for a new Post-TIFF review and recap of a screening. 

There are three main takeaways from Chris Evans’ (yes, Captain America Chris Evans) directorial debut, Before We Go, about Chris Evans. Takeaway #1: Evans is quite a romantic. Takeaway #2: He has clearly watched his fair share of independent romance films. Takeaway #3: He has a long way to go as a director.

Takeaway #3 probably sounds like an obvious statement, but upon seeing the film, you will understand how blatant that truth is over the course of a ninety minute viewing. The entire movie is a not-so-subtle tribute to all of the two-person, romantic plot-that-is-not-really-a-plot films with several continuous long shots, at least one Bloc Party track (in this case, it’s So Here We Are) and a small budget. Richard Linklater’s Before series or Like Crazy will probably come to mind, and Evans hasn’t shied away from the comparisons in interviews or in Q+As, as I found out when I asked him what inspired him to take on this genre in his first foray into directing (note: I’m still kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to tell him how much I loved Snowpiercer.) He mentioned Linklater and Like Crazy (and how much he was blown away by the fact that the latter was filmed without a script), he confirmed that he indeed is a romantic, but he also discussed how he wanted something manageable for his first time directing (three weeks, a cast that maxes out to four people in one scene, shot in New York.)

While in this case, manageable does not mean original, Before We Go was enjoyable for what it was (especially for this blogger, who spent majority of TIFF sleep deprived and watching several dramas.) Evans also stars in the film as aspiring trumpet player Nick Vaughan who, while performing in Grand Central Station, notices a very distraught and frantic woman named Brooke (Alice Eve, Star Trek: Into Darkness) who misses her train home. Nick, the instantly charming and dreamy protagonist, immediately offers to help her get back to Boston before her husband returns from his weekend trip. Neither of their cell phones work, both are strapped for cash, but they learn to trust one another as they venture out into New York City with a few dollars and conflicted hearts.

Between the thin character arcs and the failed attempts to carve depth into the story, lies a really great rapport between Eve and Evans. They are engaging when it comes to executing many of the comedic moments chalked out in Richard Shaffer’s (Rainman) script and their chemistry evokes those warm, cutesy feelings for audiences, making it easy to hinge onto the romantic fulfilment fantasies the film ultimately delivers (that is, if you are into this sort of story.) As the pair expresses the at-times witty banter and plays out those dream-like situations, we are treated to some really great shots of New York’s faces, ranging from swanky hotels to Chinatown and the quiet streets in between. The mix of long, continuous shots with these intimate portrait moments, while certainly indie-esque in nature, are a lot more refined than what is typically found in these kinds of films, giving Before We Go a more polished feel. All that’s missing is Evans’ own unique voice, one which he will hopefully define with future directing projects.

Here are a few other tidbits from his Question and Answer period:

  • He called himself creatively fickle and mentioned his hope to do music in the future
  • The biggest challenge of this film was acting and directing at the same time
  • In retrospect, he would not shoot in winter again
  • While he loved working one-on-one with Eve, it was great having more people on set to work with for certain scenes
  • He enjoyed editing the hotel room scene

Before We Go was picked up for U.S. distribution by Radius (same company that distributed Snowpiercer) during the Toronto International Film Festival and is targeting a second quarter release in 2015 (according to The Hollywood Reporter.)

I attended the second screening of Before We Go at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere.

 

 

 

The Post-TIFF Recap + Review: 71′

via Indiewire

via Indiewire

This is the second in a twelve part series called The Post-TIFF, where I review one of the twelve movies that I screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Check back every week for a new Post-TIFF review and recap of a screening. 

Jack O’Connell will likely become a household name when the Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken hits theatres at the end of this year; some are even predicting early Oscar buzz for his performance. A look at O’Connell’s previous works certainly helps his case as a touted up-and-comer, including 71′, which made its rounds at film festivals this year. I attended a screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which was followed by a Q&A with O’Connell, first-time director Yann Demange and producer Angus Lamont.

71′ follows British soldier Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) who accidentally gets left behind amidst a violent protest in the streets of Belfast during the 1970s conflicts in Northern Ireland. He engages in the ultimate cat-and-mouse game as he attempts to stay alive during a night in the conflict core. While there are certainly political undertones to the story, it is a tale of survival as Hook navigates the crooked roads and alleyways of Belfast, finds (surprisingly hilarious) allies in the unlikeliest of places and disguises himself as a local in order to live to tell the tale (and see his son again.) O’Connell’s performance is very physically-oriented; he barely speaks throughout the film. Between wounded breaths, fear-stricken facial expressions and what Demange called “an old-school masculinity and vulnerability”, he manages to communicate the tension Demange works very hard to instil over the course of the film.

It’s present in every component. The labyrinth setting (some of which was filmed in buildings near the production offices as a lot of the period architecture was torn down) is mostly shrouded in darkness and filled with random shortcuts and passageways, making Hook’s journey completely unpredictable and visually suspenseful. Demange favoured lots of shaky camera action which enhanced the audience’s experience of the violent and chaotic conditions through Hook’s perspective, but it had a bit of a dizzying effect after a while. Nevertheless, they are poignant. Both Demange and O’Connell spoke of their desire to create a film that was not a glorified representation but rather posed questions about the nature of the conflict, which really came across in a lot of the intimate shots, particularly during the initial riot scene. Demange wanted to cover the period where the conflict was beginning to escalate and that one scene alone really gave the audience a sense of troubling times ahead, not just for Hook’s character, but for the overall conflict.  It was a sort of visual roundtable that captured the varying perspectives and emotions very well. It also served as the introduction point for many secondary characters and antagonists, some of whom were easy to confuse but also represented the very strong, youthful presence involved during that period. They helped tangle the plot and kept you intrigued, wondering with every turn and scene how Hook would ever be able to survive the night.

The sheer amount of suspense, visual storytelling and O’Connell’s performance are great reasons to check out 71′. Unfortunately it is only being distributed in the United Kingdom at this time, and will be released this Friday.