Fraught Tales of Friends and Family

Colin Farrell in Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

From high-profile world premieres such as Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans to the Wavelengths program’s pointers toward possible futures for the art of the moving image, there’s a lot to look forward to when Toronto opens tomorrow. You’ll find lists of most-anticipated films at the Film Stage,IndieWire, the Playlist, and so on as well as plenty of coverage in the Globe and Mail,NOW Magazine, and the Toronto Star. What you do not want to miss is the daily round of capsule reviews, interviews, and features from Cinema Scope.

Telluride, a festival that, as A. O. Scott puts it in the New York Times, “aims neither too high nor too low,” wrapped on Monday. Speaking to a number of longtime attendees, the Los Angeles TimesJosh Rottenberg found that “the mood seemed a bit more subdued than usual this year.” For one thing, “there was no way to ignore the steep challenges facing exactly the sort of ambitious, adult-oriented films that Telluride exists to celebrate, as audiences continue to shift away from theaters and the industry struggles to recover from the disruptions of the pandemic.” For another, this year’s lineup was “light on splashy, star-driven crowd-pleasers,” favoring instead “smaller, weightier films, a number of them grappling with knotty themes of gender, race, power, artistic angst, and abuse.”

And that pretty well sets the tone for today’s overview—a bit briefer than yesterday’s—of early critical responses to films premiering in competition in Venice.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Every afternoon, Pádraic (Colin Farrell), an amiable but not terribly sharp farmer on the tiny fictional Irish island of Inisherin, drops by the cottage of his friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson), and the two of them head off to the pub. But not today. Colm, a fiddler who has decided to concentrate on his music, abruptly announces the end of their friendship: “I just don’t like you no more.” It’s the spring of 1923, and while the Irish Civil War is winding down, gunfire and cannon blasts can still be heard from the distant mainland.

Director Martin McDonagh first paired Farrell and Gleeson in In Bruges (2008), and then headed off to the States to make Seven Psychopaths (2012) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), a film embraced by Academy voters but shunned by many of the same critics who are now—much to their own surprise, it seems—applauding The Banshees of Inisherin. The men and women of this island are for the most part silent types, but when they “break and vent and hold forth,” writes Guy Lodge in Variety, “they do so in the ornately verbal, gruffly poetic and violently hilarious vernacular of McDonagh’s best writing . . . The result feels closer than any of his previous films to the barbed, intimate lyricism of McDonagh’s work as a playwright, and more deeply, sorrowfully felt to boot . . . What begins as a doleful, anecdotal narrative becomes something closer to mythic in its rage and resonance.”

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin finds that “the colorful supporting characters take on the air of figures from folklore: Kerry Condon is superb as Pádraic’s sharp-witted, happily unmarried sister Siobhan, while Sheila Flitton delights as a vinegary old busybody who lives alone by the loch, and whose true role in island life is one of the film’s most unsettling question marks. And Barry Keoghan brings an enthralling twitchy pathos to Dominic, the local gam, or village idiot, whose early discovery of a strange long stick leads to a brilliantly calculated, blood-freezing payoff.”

McDonagh “orchestrates the give-and-take between Farrell and Gleeson with the mastery of someone who appreciates these performers as much as discerning audiences do,” writes Glenn Kenny at “They let it fly; Farrell does some of his best acting with his furrowed eyebrows; Gleeson has a glare that’s both a death-ray and an enigma.” In the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney gives warm shoutouts to “the soulful widescreen cinematography of Ben Davis, bringing a mythic quality to the rugged landscapes, and to Carter Burwell’s full-bodied, mood-shifting score, one of his loveliest.”

The Eternal Daughter

Less a full-blown sequel than a coda to The Souvenir (2019) and The Souvenir Part II (2021), Joanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter pulls filmmaker Julie and her mother Rosalind from the 1980s to the unnerving present moment. Shot by Ed Rutherford on 35 mm—in Wales, in secret, during the Covid lockdown—the film is set in a grand old manor now converted into a hotel. The cocky receptionist (Carly-Sophia Davies) swears that every room is taken, but Julie—who has brought Rosalind to the grounds of her childhood in the hopes of shaking loose her mother’s memories so that she might work them into a screenplay she’s writing—sees no one.

Tilda Swinton has taken over the role of Julie from her real-life daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, and she plays Rosalind as well. The Eternal Daughter “feels perfectly calibrated to match the energy of its star, a rare case of actor and film existing in a kind of symbiosis,” writes Leonardo Goi in the Notebook. “Hogg here does something far more intricate and subtle than following her stand-in as she wrestles with the weight of her mother’s recollections. She concretizes memory into the film’s fabric, which acquires the evanescent quality of a recollection as well as a bifocal perspective. The film becomes a ghost story with two interchangeable ghosts, a diary that, as time goes on, purposely blurs its author, leaving you uncertain as to who is remembering, and who is being remembered.”

In Variety, Jessica Kiang isn’t nearly as keen on The Eternal Daughter. “While it suits the film’s underlying themes of mother-daughter elision, of doubling, mimicry and mirroring, to have Rosalind and Julie’s conversations unfold in discrete, medium shots in which not so much as the shadow of the one ever falls across the other, it also alerts us from the outset to the nature of the story’s construction,” she writes. The Eternal Daughter “comes freighted with genre expectations that it is not particularly interested in fulfilling, and soon starts to feel like an unnecessarily drawn-out wait for a reveal we know is coming from the start.” In the Hollywood Reporter, Leslie Felperin finds that “it plays a little too often like an academic pastiche of horror tropes even though its emotional core rings with resonance.”

For Robbie Collin, “this is a ghost story at Christmas in the vintage BBC-does-M. R.-James style” and “probably Hogg’s most straightforward, least enigmatic work to date, though it moves with the slow-build chill of a finger trickling down your spine, and the eerie atmosphere—all billowing mist and snatches of Bartók—is gorgeously sustained.” The Eternal Daughter is “a minor film at least partly by design, but it leaves an ethereal trail of sadness and creepiness.”


Italian director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro, Golden Door) has openly declared that L’immensità, his first feature in eleven years, tells his own story. Newcomer Luana Giuliani plays Andrea, an adolescent who grew up in Rome as a girl and now, in the 1970s, identifies as a young man. L’immensità “never treats transgender identity as a hot-button issue or message-movie dais,” writes Guy Lodge, “but as a particular, personal conviction in a life already beset with complications, and is more interested in how Andrea perceives and accepts his gender than in how the outside world resists it.”

Andrea’s father (Vincenzo Amato) is gruff when he’s around, and his Spanish-born mother (Penélope Cruz) is trying to ward off depression. At the Film Verdict, Jay Weissberg writes that “for a new movie to tackle gender identity, it needs to offer some glimpse into the struggle that’s more than skin deep, and such insight is lacking.” But Crialese’s “deservedly celebrated attention to framing and visuals is beautifully realized in collaboration with DOP Gergely Pohárnok, and there are several stand-out set pieces . . . Production designer Dimitri Capuani and costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini really nail the period, finally making it look natural and genuine rather than a later imagining of a decade usually seen as either uniformly brown or awash in ugly clashing patterns.”

Writing for Sight and Sound, Jonathan Romney suggests that L’immensità is “one of those sleekly staged crowd-pleasers that go down so well with domestic audiences at the Venice Film Festival. Its kitsch exuberance is something you either buy or don’t, but it’s Crialese’s personal investment that makes L’immensità distinctive, even when the themes of conformity, rebellion, and the search for the true self are laid out with a kind of feel-good—and sometimes play-safe—obviousness.”

Love Life

Taeko (Fumino Kimura) and her husband Jiro (Kento Nagayama) are living happily uneventful lives when their six-year-old son, Keita (Tetsuda Shimada), slips in a bathtub and drowns. “The stomach-dropping concussive sound of his skull hitting ceramic utterly inverts the film’s quiet, domestic universe, and Taeko and Jiro’s apartment becomes a child’s grave,” writes Xuanlin Tham for Little White Lies. Keita’s biological father, the expatriate Korean Park (Atom Sunada), reenters—and further disrupts—their lives.

Love Life, the ninth feature from Koji Fukada, “promisingly begins to explore the chasm between irreconcilable languages of grief, and the entire dormant universe of experiences we share with those who leave our lives and make their returns,” writes Tham. “But tangled in the soap-operatics of a family drama, it turns episodic, and jarringly (or worse, unintentionally) comedic. Its final act is composed of such undercooked plot developments that its emotional stakes lose all import.”

But Ioncinema’s Nicholas Bell finds that Fukada is “a skillful technician when it comes to laying out his interconnected characters and the eventual web they weave for themselves. Whether it’s the released prisoner in Harmonium (2016), the menacing kidnapping catalyst in 2019’s A Girl Missing, or the mad love game in The Real Thing (2020), Fukada takes his time revealing how his characters are fated to intersect, each sequence carefully relaying information which builds to a small series of climaxes.”

For David Katz at Cineuropa, Love Life plays “like an experiment to see if you could shake out all of the component parts of a typically rich family melodrama—perhaps something by Farhadi, or indeed even Kore-eda—either hollowing out its center, or leaving just a few key, asymmetrical elements in place like the end of a round of Jenga.” Fukada “seems fascinated by the idea of displacement and deferment, and how emotional relations can be complicated, yet also spontaneous and bizarre.”

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