TIFF: Gutland, Never Steady, Never Still, and Luk’Luk’I

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I’ve been privileged this year to watch a few films that impart slices of real life in every day or surrealistic settings. These types of movies can render the eye and the heart into some unchartered territory that provokes anger, empathy, and most of all, meditative thought. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) never fails to bring films to the table that break imposed genre definitions and work that is an alternative to the big budget mainstream. Thankfully, I think I can say that while I might enjoy a lot of film for film’s sake, I delight even more in knowing that 2017 shows a lot of promise for TIFF’s refocus on alternative cinema.

Gutland
dir: Govinda van Maele

Jens (Frederick Lau) is a mysterious foreigner who’s arrived to a quiet farming village. The people generally keep to their own, but after a tryst with a local called Lucy (Vicky Krieps), the community slowly welcomes him in. But while something isn’t quite right about Jens, there’s something quite dangerous hidden within the town itself.

Gutland plays part art house in its gorgeous cinematography of field landscapes and natural indoor lighting. However, it doesn’t quite mesh well with how the rest of the movie plays out, which goes from dramatic to suspenseful in sharp turns, especially during the third act. Govinda Van Meale does a great job with Lau and Krieps who hold strong performances as Jens and Lucy. But the movie lacks a cohesiveness of tone that just might be due to its length.

Other than that, the film is beautiful to look at and grabs the viewer with its potential from the beginning, but ends off to abruptly for its build up.

Never Steady, Never Still

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.

Luk’Luk’I

dir: Wayne Wapeemukwa

Luk’Luk’I is a peak into the lives of five disenfranchised Vancouverites set around the 2010 Winter Olympics. The cast is comprised of mostly non-actors with the exception of Joe Dion Buffalo. The film is reminiscent of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in its poetic long form essay style; drama mixed in with atmospheric still interludes. It’s an unusual approach, but one that manages to accurately extoll the complicated stories of the film’s characters.

Since most of the characters in the film are of an Indigenous background it contrasts well against the patriotic celebrations of the Olympics. It alludes to the ever-present colonial atmosphere that continually erases the native land that it’s set in. This creates a striking pastiche of exposition bringing with it various messages of awareness and empathy.

Director Wayne Wapeemukwa has a made a feature film that borders on documentary and drama, but in reality he’s made a must-see film based on true injustice and progressive art house.

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About Author

I'm a published writer, illustrator, and film critic. Cinema has been a passion of mine since my first viewing of Milius' Conan the Barbarian and my film tastes go from experimental to modern blockbuster.