The Hassle’s Kyle Amato is on the ground for the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival – watch this space for further dispatches!
Boy Kills World dir. Moritz Mohr
It wouldn’t be a film festival if you don’t see something stunningly incompetent and offensive to the art of filmmaking. From an opening crawl that ends with “The bitch had to go” to Deadpool-lite narration that disappears halfway through the film, there is nothing about Boy Kills World that works except Bill Skasgård’s stunning musculature. The humor is lower than sophomoric, and any filmmaker who thinks Sharlto Copley and Brett Gelman yelling “fuck puppet” at each other is funny cannot be trusted. Everyone is annoying. Worst of all, the film is nearly two hours long. This cannot be released in its current form. It must be chopped down with a chainsaw to get to about 85 minutes, and the narration must be excised or only used a handful of times at the start. This will not fix the film, but it can be salvaged at least a little bit. But one imagines the “distributor placeholder” title card will remain unfilled for quite some time.
Memory dir. Michel Franco
Silvia (Jessica Chastain), a single mom and recovering alcoholic, is trying to get her life back on track and lay low. However, things start to change after a man she’s not sure she recognizes (Peter Sarsgaard) follows her home from their high school reunion. Fortunately, this isn’t the start of a home invasion story – the relationship that builds between Silvia and Saul is far more interesting. Both Chastain and Sarsgaard give great performances, flinty and devastating, as they navigate the strange circumstances that brought them together and what it could mean for their futures. To say more would be to spoil the film’s key plot turn, and this is a real movie for adults that’s worth watching knowing as little as possible. Though Chastain and Sarsgaard are the focus, the supporting cast of Merritt Wever, Josh Charles, and Jessica Harper do sharp work, defining these families and their painful histories. The film dares you to look away as it strips down each relationship and threatens total annihilation.
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World dir. Radu Jude
Is Radu Jude the only director grappling with the banal insanity of modern life? The Romanian director manages to portray the brain melting reality of TikTok, the gig economy, “wokeness,” and basically everything else without coming off as preachy or lame, miraculously. End of the World follows a brash production assistant named Angela (Ilinca Manolache) who spends her days running random errands for her job while also recording Brian Jordan Alvarez-style TikToks parodying Andrew Tate. The film also takes place immediately after Queen Elizabeth’s death. Ow, my brain! This and Bad Luck Banging are my only windows into Romania, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jude’s films are always an experience you just need to lean into. You won’t regret it. Probably!
Monster dir. Kore-eda Hirokazu
An incredibly depressing drama about two young schoolboys, their parents, and their teachers, Monster broaches taboo topics that many films fear. The film employs a Rashomon style structure to slowly bring to light the truth of a boy’s outburst and his teacher’s rash response. The opening section focuses on the boy’s mother Saori (Sakura Andō, last seen in Kore-eda’s Shoplifters), who is confused and furious at the school administration’s apparent lack of concern. We soon shift to the teacher in question, showing what he thinks happened in a sensitive manner without just throwing away Saori’s concerns. These perspectives pale in comparison to that of Mintao’s (Sōya Kurokawa), a quiet boy who doesn’t understand what’s actually happening with his mood swings and impulses. Each passage is equally devastating, building to a crescendo that’s cathartic in its release, if only for the suffering to end. This is starting to not sound like an endorsement, but it is. Just understand what you’re getting into with this incredibly human drama.
Stay tuned for the rest of Kyle’s TIFF coverage!