TIFF ’15 – Day 1: Jorge Begins

We Monsters
We Monsters

This is the sixth year I cover the Toronto International Film Festival and I’m getting jaded. I’ve always avoided the press conferences (most of the questions are mind-bogglingly stupid), but now even the roundtables annoy me (people trying to talk on top of each other, just to lay the most obvious inquires). One-on-ones are ideal, but also the rarest of beasts.

It doesn’t seem there will be a Ben Affleck, a Marion Cotillard or a Ralph Fiennes for me this year. I’ve a fairly decent roster lined up, but nothing ground-breaking. At best, the fans of Ray Donovan (all the two of you) may get a kick of my interview with Liev Schreiber.

Well, let’s get this party started! (I’ve not been invited to any parties yet. Except the Toronto Film Critics Association one, which was full of critics.)

We Monsters (Germany, 2015): One of those terrific European thrillers more likely to be dumbed down and remade rather than distributed (subtitles are not that difficult, people), We Monsters is a tidy, mean spirited flick that lingers more than it’s convenient. Paul and Christine are the divorced parents of a particularly horrific teen daughter. They have no idea how bad it is until she confesses killing her best friend in a fit of rage.

The hapless ex-couple decides to hide the misdeed, unaware their daughter has an agenda beyond the crime. The concealing of the murder has the devastating effect of a nuclear bomb, beginning with Paul and Christine’s new partners, two decent people oblivious of the mess they were getting into.

The greatest trick We Monsters pulls is that it’s firmly set in reality. The parents are normal, complicated adults thrown into a tailspin by a troubled daughter who is very much a teen nonetheless. Far from forced, the twists and turns the plot takes are feasible coming from regular folk, not criminal masterminds. Keep an eye on this movie. It may just make it. Three and a half prairie monsters.

The Lobster (UK/Greece, 2015): It’s hard to come up with new ideas for movies. Thankfully, we have the delightfully kooky Yorgos Lanthimos to provide us with new material. Lanthimos, who caused quite a stir in Cannes six years ago with the strange incest comedy Dogtooth, is back with a more “accessible” farce with bouts of absurdity and violence. Meet The Lobster.

In a society just like ours -only abstract to a fault- the natural state of a person is within the confines of coupledom. Single people (divorced, widowed, or just loners) are sent to a rehab facility in hopes to find their other half within 45 days. If unsuccessful, they are turned into the animal of his choice.

The Lobster follows David (Colin Farrell, delightfully deadpan) as he makes his way first as a patient and later as outsider (he joins a group of singletons hiding in the woods, not much nicer than the coupledom enforcers). The film demands tolerance for absurd humour and some brutality, but overall is quite successful at balancing the plot’s disparate elements. While quite out there, the internal logic of The Lobster is flawless and its message (there are not rational solutions to emotional problems) is rather original, if kind of obvious. Four people reincarnated in prairie dogs.

Tomorrow I’ll be interviewing at Barkhad Abdi, the Somali pirate who kidnaped Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. I’ll ask him about those Olsen twins rumours.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.