"Everybody has a right to be loved."
Gabrielle is about a developmentally challenged young woman looking for independence and love, and not in that order. The film works hard to be about a woman in love who happens to be developmentally challenged. Gabrielle is also Canada's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Oscars.
Gabrielle's older sister, Sophie, is also chasing far away love: her fiance is teaching in India. Gabrielle's love, Martin, are both in Montréal, but their challenges are greater.
Sophie is very supportive of Gabrielle's love quest, illiciting the above quote. But Martin's mother is more protective.
Music prevails the plot since Gabrielle and Martin are in the same choir that gets to work with famous Quebec singer Robert Charlebois.
Gabrielle is a love story with extra layers and meaning. Making the Oscars cut for the fourth year in a row for Canada depends on the competition, but the country's effort is a good one.
15 Reasons to Live has the potential to be a sappy film. Films about happiness are usually sappy. Director Alan Zweig adds the proper dose of cynicism. And the stories aren't always happy.
Covering 15 stories in 83 minutes means you get condensed versions of sometimes more complex stories. A Grade 2 girl is mocked and teased because she doesn't want to kiss a picture of Jesus … on the lips. A mother of 5 seeks solace in a crowded mall. A guy starts a blog about 1,000 songs.
You don't have to be in a mid-life crisis to appreciate the film, but offers a few options if you are on that path.
Empire of Dirt is marketed as a story of three generations of Native American women, but feels more like the spirals of teenage girls having babies in a repeating cycle.
Cara Gee plays a 30-year-old single mother of a 13-year-old girl. She cleans houses for a living, and when her substance abuse pattern starts up in her daughter, the mother leaves the temptations of Toronto to go back home to her mother, whose problem is gambling as opposed to drugs.
Luke Kirby plays the girl's father.
All That You Possess is about the most boring man in the world. Voluntarily isolated from society, our protagonist is translating the work of an obscure Polish poet into French. He is estranged from his dying father and his mother is institutionalized. His last attempt at any level of intimacy is when his teenage daughter comes back in his life, the same child that he wanted aborted.
Cas and Dylan is directed by Jason Priestly and stars Richard Dreyfuss, but the attention shifts to Tatiana Maslany, who starred in "Picture Day" last year. The plot is extremely simple: a road trip from Winnipeg to the West Coast. The film works because you are drawn to Maslany, the scenery is beautiful, and Dreyfuss fits into his role rather well. The film made me cry twice and laugh a lot more than twice.
All the Wrong Reasons is touted as one of Cory Montieth's final films. The story is about four dysfunctional department store workers. The writer and director notes the PTSD theme of Kate, who witnessed the suicide of her sister.
The film ends up surprisingly deep, dealing with touch and intimacy both for Kate, but also for Simon, a former firefighter who lost part of his left arm and works as a security guard in the store.
Montieth does fine in his role, but the focus is mostly on Kate and Simon. Unlike a lot of Canadian film, this was shot in Halifax and Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Another House is a slow-moving beautiful film. An old man with declining mental health issues speaks of going home, but not to the house in the middle of the woods where he lives with one of his sons and his son's Haitian musician girlfriend.
The other son is a war correspondent, following in his father's footsteps, who comes home. Once the girlfriend, the most interesting character, exits the film, then we get down to the male bonding filled with unspoken communication of some kind no obviously present to the audience.
Vic and Flo Saw a Bear is a sad film. You would think a film with French-speaking lesbians, one of them being French actress Romane Bohringer, who are both ex-cons would be more intriguing. Their friendship with Vic's parole officer is a rare upbeat moment in the film.
Flo is the target of revenge, though the writer and director has no interest in letting us know why. The ending, without giving anything away, is rather disturbing to more sensitive viewers.
Hold Fast is a film that can double as a Newfoundland tourism movie as absolutely gorgeous scenery abounds.
The protagonist, a 14-year-old boy named Michael, is forced to move from his fishing harbour village to a small town after his parents are killed in a car accident. Molly Parker plays his aunt/new mother. Her husband runs a military style household, forcing Michael and his cousin Curtis to run away.
Michael's quest is to fulfill a promise his dad never got to keep, and his camping skills help the two boys survive in the woods.
Parker doesn't get to do much in the film, since the focus is on the boys and showcasing Newfoundland.
If you are looking for a true family film that multiple generations would enjoy, Hold Fast will hold up.
Sarah Prefers to Run was technically unavailable for viewing. As you may recall, a similar problem happened last year with Camion, though that film suffered from a lack of subtitles. If we get a chance to see this film, we will post a review.
This list does not include the short films as well as the Windsor film This Is What a Feminist Sounds Like.
Full disclosure: While I paid for the opening night film and party, I was given a press pass for the duration of the festival. Then again, I paid my way for the first 5 years.