AFI Fest 2020: It’s a Wrap!
To hear the Critic’s quick reactions to the first half of offerings that he saw at AFI Fest 2020, click here.
On this episode of Why Watch That:
HIGHLIGHTED OFFERINGS AT THE END OF AFI FEST 2020:
1. World Cinema: Wolfwalkers
In 17th-century Ireland, a magical friendship takes shape. Young Robyn and her wolf-hunter father, Bill, are sent from England tasked with ridding the woodland outside of town of wolves. After being told to stay within the city walls, Robyn sneaks out to explore the magical world of the forest where she meets Mebh (“Maeve”), a wild girl raised by wolves. Robyn undergoes a secret transformation, turning into the very thing her father is sent to destroy and creating a final battle between the wolf pack and townsfolk.
Following THE SECRET OF KELLS and SONG OF THE SEA, WOLFWALKERS is the third film of Academy Award®-nominated animators Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s “Irish folklore trilogy” and an exciting visual adventure for the whole family. –Sarah Harris
2. Special Presentation: World Premiere: Pink Skies Ahead
Los Angeles, 1998. After dropping out of college and moving back home to live with her parents, Winona is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Skeptical of her doctor’s opinion — she hasn’t had a panic attack after all —Winona carries on with her wild lifestyle. Only when things begin to truly unravel around her, does she reluctantly decide to see a therapist and face her truths.
Jessica Barden gives a magnetic performance as the passionate and struggling Winona. The directorial debut film of Kelly Oxford, based on her essay “No Real Danger,” PINK SKIES AHEAD is a powerful and empathetic portrait of mental health often hidden beneath the surface. –Sarah Harris
3. World Cinema: Uncle Frank
Beth has always been keen on her uncle Frank. On the rare occasions whenever he would visit them in rural South Carolina from New York City, she would revel in how he was clever, worldly and different in a good way. When she goes off to college at NYU in the early ’70s, she learns more about his world, including his longtime partner Walid (“Wally”). When a death in the family strikes, Beth and her uncle set out on a road trip to their hometown to confront their family and their pasts.
Director and writer Alan Ball (SIX FEET UNDER, TRUE BLOOD) has spent much of his career contemplating death, and in UNCLE FRANK he tells another story where we face mortality the only way we know how: with life as a mirror. –Eric Moore
4. World Cinema: Wander Darkly
How would you regard the arc of a romance if you could revisit it? This visually stunning, moving and time-bending drama is told assuredly by director Tara Miele. The viewer is rewarded with an exploration of love, memory, regret, loss and death and a profound examination of the complexity of relationships. Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) have a new baby and are about to become homeowners. Their chemistry is palpable, but distrust and uncertainty are tearing them apart. A traumatic event intervenes, and their story takes a surreal and fascinating turn. Each traces the history of their relationship, commenting as they relive events from their past from differing perspectives. Both lead actors give magnificent, emotionally layered performances. The film takes intriguing risks that intensify its profound emotional heft.
5. World Cinema: I Carry You With Me
Realism and romanticism come together artfully in this poignant, decades-long story. Ivan (Armando Espitia) and Gerardo (Christian Vazquez) fall in love and must face homophobia, racism and injustice, while weathering the perils of undocumented immigration. Documentarian Heidi Ewing’s first narrative feature cleverly incorporates her non-fiction background, weaving in the real-life couple with the actors who play them in a lyrical, non-linear fashion. Clear-eyed and tender in equal measure, the film moves with fluidity and grace from the slower rhythms of Puebla, Mexico, to bustling New York City. Gerardo and Ivan face a series of hurdles in the course of their relationship. Comparisons can be made to TREE OF LIFE and MOONLIGHT in the way this sweeping saga glides forward and back in time, through memories and over hardships to the ultimate transcendence of love.
6. World Cinema: My Little Sister
Dramas exploring adult brother-sister relationships are rare in cinema. And when told well, they resonate in powerful ways. Such is the case with Lisa and Sven in MY LITTLE SISTER, a graceful tale of a playwright (superbly played by Nina Hoss) and her twin brother, a Berlin-based stage actor (Lars Eidinger). Lisa has abandoned writing while living with her husband (Jens Albinus) and children in a small Swiss city. Bored by the way her cloistered existence revolves around the international school her husband heads, Lisa re-evaluates her life. When Sven develops leukemia, the pair bond even more profoundly over their shared passion for theater. Writer-directors Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond, both working actors, draw a compelling, raw and honest performance from Hoss which will stay with the viewer well after the credits roll. –Claudia Puig
7. Special Presentation: The Father
Living alone in London and nearing 80 years old, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) has refused another nurse that his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) has set up for him. Exuberant and independent, Anthony has struggled with his memory beginning to slip away. Anne announces she is moving to Paris with a new boyfriend, but later in the living room Anthony sees a stranger claiming to be Anne’s husband. Who is this man? Confusion sets in.
Academy Award®-winner Hopkins delivers a brilliant performance of a man with dementia, creating a powerful cinematic experience of memory and loss. Based on his award-winning play, Florian Zeller has crafted a moving and insightful portrait of a cruel disease and the heartbreak it brings. –Sarah Harris