Sunday, 11 October 2015

Five Final Festival Mini-Reviews: The Second Mother, Fractured Land, Dark Horse, Cop Car, 3rd Street Blackout

Over the next week, I’ll be writing four full-length reviews of films from the Edmonton International Film Festival. But here is one last set of mini-reviews (in the order I liked them, as is the previous two sets), including 3rd Street Blackout, the only dud I saw at the festival (out of 20 films):

The Second Mother

This film from Brazil, directed by Anna Muylaert, stars Regina Case as Val, a live-in housekeeper of a wealthy family in Sao Paulo . Val had left Jessica, her young daughter, behind in northern Brazil to be raised by relatives. Now Jessica, preparing for her college entrance exams, wants to come live with Val. The result is chaotic for the household as Jessica is not at all impressed by the unspoken class rules governing life in the house. Well-acted and well-told, this rather light drama gets a solid ***+. My mug is up.

Fractured Land

This documentary from Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher focuses on the struggles of a young Indigenous leader from BC: Caleb Behn. Behn is upset by the huge fracking operation on the treaty lands of northeastern BC, where he grew up. His efforts to protest the operation are hampered by the fact that he is about to become a lawyer. Fractured Land tells Behn’s story very well but doesn’t quite pul off the attempt to make this documentary about two subjects (i.e. the exposure of the fracking industry faded into the background in an unsatisfying way). Still, this is an important film about a man who may have a key role to play in the future of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. ***+. My mug is up.

Dark Horse

This Welsh documentary from Louise Osmond tells the story of a race horse bred and trained by a group of ‘amateurs’ from a small Welsh village. With very little money and no experience, this group was behind one of the most fascinating British race horses of the past decade: Dream Alliance. The documentary is very well made. ***+. My mug is up.

Cop Car

A darkly comic suspense film that reminded me of the Coen brothers, Jon Watts’ Cop Car stars Kevin Bacon as a bent sheriff whose car gets stolen by two young boys. This entertaining film focuses on the relationship and actions of the two boys, who should surely have known better. It was all a little too violent and unbelievable for me, but I’ll give Cop Car ***. My mug is up.

3rd Street Blackout

This comedy about a young couple, played by Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf (who also wrote and directed the film), facing relationship issues in the midst of the post-Hurricane-Sandy blackout in Manhattan, didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t find any of the main characters sympathetic, the humour fell flat time and again and the attempts at social commentary (e.g. smartphone culture in a blackout) were pathetic. The only dud I saw at the festival, I will generously award 3rd Street Blackout **. My mug is down. A complete waste of time.


  1. I think there just could be a chance that you're on a festival high and everything is looking good. It's hard to believe that this many obscure indies are that good (though, thank goodness you finally gave one the mug down).

  2. I won't try to argue with you, but keep in mind that, for the most part, I chose these particular films based on recommendations from trusted critics.