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Read more about REVIEW: The Butterfly Tree: full of arthouse nectar here
September 14th 2017

REVIEW: The Butterfly Tree: full of arthouse nectar

By DAMIEN NGUYEN in Mojo News

The Butterfly Tree fully realises the power of arthouse cinema. The magic that permeates the film is seen through gorgeous imagery, in the creative use of colour and costumes.

This is a film that embraces its ability to tell a narrative that is thematically complex through creative use of visuals and excellent use of Queensland’s natural foliage.

The plot, in a similar style to A Streetcar Named Desire, focuses on three characters and the way each touches the other: Evelyn (Melissa George), a burlesque dancer-cum-florist, a troubled teen named Fin (Ed Oxenbould), and his womanising father, Al (Ewen Leslie).

Evelyn – an object of desire for both the boy and his father – is vulnerable, playful, sexual, yet damaged, evoking a Blanche Dubois archetype. A woman who is preyed upon by the two males, Evelyn is the heart of the film and the source of all colour, her burlesque costume a representation of fleeting beauty.

Fin views her as a maternal figure but, because of her undeniable sexuality, she becomes an object of desire too, blurring the lines in their relationship. Their chemistry is what creates the film’s spark and magical realism.

Her attractiveness only complicates matters when Al enters the frame, with both father and son seeking to fill the holes in their hearts with Evelyn’s magic after Al’s wife dies.

Priscilla Cameron’s direction of her own screenplay and script is conventional but smart. She allows the camera to linger on the striking visuals without overstaying their welcome. She knows when to cut and when to let the camera simply pan and freeze.
Fin (Ed Oxenbould) and Evelyn (Melissa George) talk outside Evelyn’s greenhouse home. The multitude of themes tackled in the film are particularly notable, with several revolving around love and the loneliness that can come with it. Butterflies and flowers are recurring motifs, acting as an exploration of beauty and its power over imagination and emotions.

For those eagle-eyed, there is a certain lack of modernity that is present throughout the film. Clothes, transportation, even how a young boy spends his time, harken back to a time without technology. This is crucial in developing the characters and how they react and interact with each other.

The Butterfly Tree resides clearly within the arthouse genre and falls prey to some of its common pitfalls. The pacing is uneven and at times the dream-like sequences come off as a little heavy-handed. However, George’s performance is compelling and Oxenbould brilliantly captures the confused sensations of a young man in his situation.

The Butterfly Tree is an intriguing love story that tackles the notion of love in many different ways, and has the visual story-telling to do so effectively. Magical, surrealist and old-fashioned, this is a film that transports you into a nature-driven world.

TIFF: 2017’s Rising Stars
Read more about TIFF: 2017’s Rising Stars here
September 14th 2017

TIFF: 2017’s Rising Stars

Featured in TIFF.net  on Sep 11, 2017

Nine emerging actors explain how they navigate their careers in a rapidly changing industry

Every year, the Toronto International Film Festival hand-picks actors who represent the best and brightest performers in the Canadian film industry. They participate in an intensive programme run by TIFF, in collaboration with the CSA. This year’s crop, which boasts three Canadians and four international Rising Starsfrom France, New Zealand, England, and the United States, includes some of the most dynamic performances you’ll see at the Festival. From Kathleen Hepburn’s Never Steady, Never Still, Canadian actors Théodore Pellerin and Mary Galloway absolutely captivate as a young man questioning his sexuality and a pregnant grocery store clerk with an uncertain future. (Their chemistry is electric in a beautiful scene towards the end of the film, shot in a car in merely two close-ups.) Meanwhile, actor Ellen Wong — who played Knives Chau in Edgar Wright’s Toronto epic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and is currently on the Netflix series GLOW — is a force to be reckoned with.

We reached out to all the Rising Stars to get their thoughts on how they like to collaborate with other filmmakers, whether doing a red carpet fills them with dread or anticipation, and to describe a performance in a TIFF film that has inspired them. T

 

How did you feel when you found out you were named a TIFF Rising Star?

Mary Galloway: Being named a TIFF Rising Star means being given the opportunity to show the world what I’ve got — something I’ve been working towards with all my might for years! Getting to meet some of Canada’s and the world’s greatest filmmakers means the world to me.

Théodore Pellerin: It’s beautiful to be endorsed that way by the Festival. A lot of actors I love have been named Rising Stars, so it’s an honour to be a part of the program.
Tell us about the movie that got you selected for the Rising Stars programme. What was the process of developing your character like?
Mary Galloway: My film at TIFF is called Never Steady, Never Still. It is one of the most cinematically stunning films I’ve ever seen. The writer-director Kathleen Hepburn was an absolute pleasure to work with. She allowed the process of developing the character of Kaly to happen very organically. She asked a lot of thoughtful questions that would help me discover little, subtle details about her I might not have discovered on my own. I loved Kaly’s big heart and quiet courage, and I wanted to fiercely protect her innocent optimism. I absolutely related to Kaly. Shooting the film felt a bit like I had traveled back in time to high school, rediscovering how to navigate new friendships and relationships.
Théodore Pellerin: Never Steady, Never Still tells the story of Judy, a mother who grapples to keep control of her life in the face of advanced Parkinson’s disease, while her son, Jamie, travels to the isolating world of the Alberta oil fields and battles his identity. I don’t think you get to work with a director such as Kathleen Hepburn very often, who’s so open to listening as well as being in complete control of the story she’s telling. I’ve rarely been so moved by a script as I was by this one. The first time I read it, it felt like Jamie was already in me and to get to be him was a gift.
What is your process like as an actor? Do you like doing research and asking a lot of questions? When do you rely on training, and when do you rely on instinct?
Mary Galloway: My process as an actor is always evolving and growing. Depending on the role, I’ll research for hours on end or it’ll come organically. Long discussions are always great! I think I rely on my training, so I'm able to trust my instincts.
Théodore Pellerin: I’m still very much learning about how I approach a story and a character. It depends on who the director is — how she or he likes to work. Then I try to let myself go towards what I feel I should do. I have to relearn how to work every single time, and that’s part of what’s interesting. There’s no feeling of security. It’s terrifying, but so much fun.
How do you feel about the business of promoting your work? Red carpets, photoshoots, step-and-repeats, fancy parties, conducting media interviews... Do these things fill you with dread, or excitement and anticipation?
Mary Galloway: At first, I dreaded self-promotion. Then I took a “Business of Acting” class by John Emmet Tracy at the New Image College of Fine Arts, and he taught me how to have an appreciation for that side of the job. I love a good challenge, so interviews, red carpets, and photoshoots are definitely that! It takes guts to put yourself out there as your genuine self. In that way, it’s more nerve-racking than acting.
Théodore Pellerin: I’m happy to promote a movie I care about. This stuff is part of the deal. I try to surround myself with people I love so I don’t feel abandoned in that craziness. But you can’t be present if you’re obsessed with yourself and your image. “Stay away from the vanity” would be my advice.
What's a role you would (probably) never get cast as that you are dying to play?
Mary Galloway: A role I’d kill to play is a badass, ass-whooping superhero, or a vigilante. I tend to get cast as vulnerable characters who need rescuing. Don’t get me wrong: those are some of the most interesting characters to play! But there’s a part of me who would love to surprise people.
Théodore Pellerin: I like to be surprised by what comes my way. I’m drawn to characters who make sense to me and are more alive than I am. I’m also drawn to stories that move me and I can’t really predict what they’ll be.
Describe a performance in a TIFF film that really inspires you. What do you love about this performance and why?
Mary Galloway: Brie Larson in Room. I really loved how raw the entire film is, including Brie’s performance. She was so authentic and real, and if I can ever achieve that level of skill I’d be ecstatic.
Théodore Pellerin: Anne Dorval’s performance in Mommy is one of the most powerful and moving I’ve seen. She takes us through the film and we can’t take our eyes off her. We never get bored of watching her live and breathe, and we feel everything she feels.
As a local actor, do you feel protective of your industry? Do you think now-famous Hollywood actors (such as Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, as well as Rising Stars alumni Tatiana Maslany and Sarah Gadon) have a responsibility to keep making movies in Canada and working with local directors?
Mary Galloway: I feel extremely protective of the industry in Canada. In a lot of ways, I’ve moved to Los Angeles in hopes of doing Canada proud. I do think it’s a responsibility for the now-famous Canadian actors to bridge the gap between American and Canadian cinema. Canadian filmmakers and performers are all links in a chain, and we rise together.
TIFF REVIEW: Never Steady, Never Still
Read more about TIFF REVIEW: Never Steady, Never Still here
September 14th 2017

TIFF REVIEW: Never Steady, Never Still

By Jacqueline Valencia in Next Projecion
September 12th, 2017  

 

dir: Kathleen Hepburn

Director Kathleen Hepburn’s debut, Never Steady, Never Still is the story of an eighteen year old oil worker Jamie (Théodore Pellerin) whose mother (Shirley Henderson) has been struggling with Parkinson’s for over seventeen years. There are some really strong performances here. Pellerin plays Jamie with a believable nuance and vulnerability that makes him an actor to look out for. Henderson, however, steals each scene she’s in as Judy. Her work here is heart wrenching and at times hard to watch because of how much compassion and love that seems to have gone into her role.

This is a slice of life film that follows characters in very few developments, but fleshes out stories through moments. While that might not make a it a blockbuster film, it is a unique insight into the lives of people who find themselves in directionless situations. I, for one, enjoy these types of films because not everything has to be hunky dory and tied up neatly to make a good film. In fact, it is the creative retelling of hard lives that makes this film a necessary watch.

 

REVIEW: Miami Film Review | TIFF 2017
Read more about REVIEW: Miami Film Review | TIFF 2017 here
September 13th 2017

REVIEW: Miami Film Review | TIFF 2017

By Sheri Linden for The Hollywood Reporter

September 12th 2017

A reunion for two long-separated siblings puts them on the road through southern Finland — as nightclub entertainers, and as schemers against a loan shark’s deadline.

In Miami, a winding road trip of a slow-burning crime thriller, the exotic-dance gyrations of half-sisters Anna and Angela have a silly, sexy charm. It’s the offstage dance between them, and the shifting interplay of affection, admiration, distrust and resentment, that fuels this absorbing journey through genre territory.

With exceptional lead performances by Finnish star Krista Kosonen and Sonja Kuittinen, in her first film role, Zaida Bergroth’s third feature (after Last Cowboy Standing and The Good Son) is a compelling double character study. Though its central section could be tighter and its final stretch presents an overload of incident, the story’s central duo — especially Kosonen’s Angela — cast a spell.

An exotic dancer in her late 20s, Angela is anything but practical-minded, but she’s well aware of the ticking clock on a career that once specialized in more “private” entertainment. To launch the Amazing Angels, a be-winged and be-spangled dance act, she has incurred a huge debt. Yet it’s the relatively inexperienced Anna, almost a decade younger, who feels the urgency of the ticking clock on Angela’s €30,000 loan.

Payment is due in an impossible three weeks, and Anna surprises, scares and delights her sister with an almost absurdly efficient, if borderline reckless, scheme to raise the money quickly, blackmailing some of the well-heeled men Angela parties with. A small-time politician is the first to cough up cash, and eventually the blackmailers stumble into the realm of major-league corruption — involving, paradoxically, a government plan for clean energy.

Through all of this, the two are just getting to know each other. As the story opens, Anna, has tracked down her half-sib not long after the death of their father, who raised Anna and rejected the daughter from his first marriage. At key moments that bitter fact rises to the surface of the story, heightening the sense of uncertainty between the sisters as the screws tighten on their ploy.

But when they first meet, Angela and Anna are mutually dazzled, and after a falling out with her troupe, Angela entices the sheltered Anna to leave her crappy café job and step out of her mousy shell for a tour of provincial nightclubs. After a few lessons under the nighttime lights of a gas station — one of many evocative compositions from cinematographer Hena Blomberg — Anna masters the undemanding choreography and come-hither attitude of an Angels performance. More to the point, she keeps Angela several steps ahead of the tough guys representing kingpin Mertsi (Kristian Smeds), among them a possibly revengeful and surprisingly touching Jakke (Christian Lindroos).

The long-simmering hurt beneath Angela’s cheer is apparent in the quicksilver play of emotions in Kosonen’s eyes, and the screenplay by Jan Forsström and the director makes poignantly clear that Angela’s father was not the only man to disappoint her. This is excruciatingly evident on a detour to visit “the man in my life,” played by an excellent Janne Reinikainen. In contrast, a sequence involving Anna’s fling with a sound engineer (Alex Anton) doesn’t approach the dramatic impact of Angela’s meeting with her ex, but it shows that Anna is capable of getting what she wants without feeling used or betrayed.

That’s one of the many crucial differences between the two characters, all of them brought to shimmering, unpredictable life by the actors. On the one hand, there’s Angela’s religious faith and childlike innocence, the wide-eyed dreamer beneath the seeming toughness (probably like many Scandinavians, she’s dreaming of warmer climes, and the city she’s set her sights on gives the film its title). On the other side of the push-pull equation is Anna’s constant strategizing, and the question of whether she’s helping her sister or endangering her.

Bergroth orchestrates the rising tension with dollops of Hitchcockian suspense, notably in a sequence involving a dead body and a secluded lake. The director knows how to use silence to up the ante, and Matthias Petsche’s score churns with subterranean emotions, an eloquent contrast to the pop froth of the exuberant dance numbers.

At one point, Angela describes a dance routine she’s teaching her newfound sister as “a beginning and an end, and we’ll improvise in between.” The end of Miami may not achieve the intended punch, its pile-up of switcheroos making the final moment more theoretical than affecting. But in between a strong opening and that not-quite-satisfying conclusion, Bergroth and her two fine leads create a compelling glimpse of life as it's improvised — a dance between the muck and the angels, dreaming of more.