Calhoun at TIFF13: Hateship Loveship, Therese, Metalhead

Last year I somewhat impulsively bought a handful of TIFF tickets, saw a handful of films, and was happy as the day is long. This year I decided to Elevate That Course of Action and bought a “my choice” 10-pack of tickets, made my choices, and then got addicted to ticket buying and got two more single tickets (so far….).

Though the festival started on Thursday, my participation started yesterday, on a rainy rainy Saturday. Some general observations:

1 – In my experience, this appears to be a well run festival again this year. Volunteers know what is up, are friendly and chipper despite loads of people asking them loads of questions and being all rain-soaked. And I like that every audience claps for the volunteer-thank-you ad before each film. Applause well earned.

2 – When you impulsively decide to add a third film in the middle of the other two (meaning you’ll be in a theatre or line from 11:00 am to 8:30 pm), bring snacks! I was wondering whether I would faint from hunger as the line for Therese let into the Princess of Wales theatre, when two cupcake fairies were standing there handing out free mini cupcakes in adorable little boxes. Mine was carrot, so it was basically health food. Like manna from heaven. Thank you, Short & Sweet Cupcakes! Um, other businesses: if you want to give out free delicious snacks to people in line, I say go for it.

3 – I saw Sara Canning, a.k.a. the Ghost of Aunt Jenna, walk by as I was headed out of the Scotiabank Theatre, and she looked lovely. Her film The Right Kind of Wrong premiered at TIFF, and I hope it is less about the charming qualities of a stalker than the preview suggests. (Just because he’s cute doesn’t mean he gets to act like a creeper.)

Onwards to the films!


Hateship, Loveship

directed by Liza Johnson (who was in attendance, along with the screenwriter and producer, for a Q&A apres the movie)

This is an adaptation from an Alice Munro story, updated to present day (from ’40s/’50s) and to a midwestern U.S. setting — but it felt to me 100% Alice Munro-y. Kristen Wiig plays Johanna — a live-in maid who comes to stay with a grandpa (Nick Nolte), his granddaughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and the dead-beat dad (Guy Pearce) plays a key part in the story — and Wiig’s performance is wonderfully subtle. The character has a very tight leash on herself — for the most part — and a lot of her reactions play out with the teeny tiniest smirk or twitch. Loved it. It has a very sustained tone, and having not read the story I truly did not know how things would play out. It avoids sentimentality, and no one feels like a stock character. Recommended!


Directed by Charlie Stratton (also in attendance along with cast members Elizabeth Olsen, Jessica Lange, and Tom Felton for a Q&A after the premiere)

Another adaptation! (I must be a book person.) Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin has (I learned yesterday) been adapted for the stage and for film many a time; The Postman Always Rings Twice is also based on it (thanks for the fun fact, Ms. Lange!). In the Q&A afterwards, someone asked how the director managed to avoid making a Stodgy Costume Drama, a pretty funny question but one that was spot on. Therese is tense and suspenseful, yet also hilarious in moments, and there is quite a good dose of steamy sex times! (It is, after all, concerned with adultery.) Everyone was great in it — Tom Felton plays the sickly and spoiled but well intentioned son of Jessica Lange’s character, and Elizabeth Olsen is the titular Therese, an illegitimately born girl basically indentured to her aunt and cousin in 19th century Paris. Charlie Stratton mentioned that one of the things that drew him to directing this story is how your allegiance changes from one character to another over the course of the story. First you root for one, then another — and it’s very true and very appealing. Full-on enjoyable, and recommended.


Directed by Ragnor Bragason (in attendance along with Thorbjörg Helga Dýrfjörd / Þorbjörg Helga Þorgilsdóttir,* who plays the lead role of Hera, for a Q&A after the premiere)

In case you did not guess from the director’s and actor’s names, this film is from Iceland! Set in a small Icelandic community in the 1980s, the story follows Hera and her parents in the wake of her brother’s death in a farming accident, which Hera deals with by taking on Baldur’s Metalhead persona. Perhaps what I liked most about this film was that Hera was not ‘likeable’ — she was messy and complicated and destructive. It reminded me of this “I Hate Strong Female Characters” post: she’s a complex human being like real human beings are! Other performance/character of note is Hera’s dad, Karl, played by Ingvar E. Sigurdsson: he brought me to tears (and also he is a pretty handsome dude!). I am not a Metalhead, but having worked on many a heavy metal book at ECW, I am proud to say I laughed like a banshee at the Ronnie James Dio joke.

*There are two surnames listed for the actor who plays Hera on the TIFF page; the second has an imdb profile, the first is what’s used in coverage of Metalhead… covering my bases. Maybe she got hitched and changed her name?

More TIFF TK — the rest of the films I’m seeing are: Beneath the Harvest Sky, We Are the Best!, Oculus, How I Live Now, Sarah Prefers to Run, Miracle, Concrete Night, The Double, and Omar.

Oh, and on a nerdy note, during the Therese Q&A, Tom “Draco Malfoy” Felton said “Hogwarts” and it was the best.

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