By Anne Brodie
The Lost Daughter is the story of women pushed to their limits, whose instincts are tested and found wanting and the damage done. Olivia Colman’s unsympathetic Leda is a British woman on a beach vacation in Greece. Her eyes and expression are fixed and unwelcoming. A man asks for her umbrella so his family from Queens can sit together, and she curtly refuses him, no reason offered and goes her way, giving no one quarter. Nina, a young mother in the group (Dakota Johnson) seems fascinated by Leda, shes’ so different from her raucous family and strikes up a conversation. Leda’s face warms up – she’s been watching closely as Nina lovingly interacts with her baby daughter, silently enduring the child’s temper tantrums and lashing out. Leda’s thoughts go back to being a young mother (Jessie Buckley) raising two girls with her partner (Jack Farthing). Negative emotions flood her, and she’s overwhelmed, judging what she did to them and him to be wrong but insisting to herself she had no choice. Her selfishness ruined the family. The resort owner, an ex-pat played by Ed Harris is attracted to her and she enjoys his attention, knowing she’ll be gone soon. And then an emergency – Nina’s daughter’s beloved doll is missing, and the resort’s social fabric comes unglued quietly, relentlessly and Leda’s on the run. Deeply atmospheric – the revealing glare of the beach and other people, the dark corners Leda seeks in her emotional half-life, and grim selfishness that infiltrates the resort microcosm, and the certainty of guilt and suffering. It’s ambitious and fascinating; The Lost Daughter marks Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and she’s a careful interpreter of Elena Ferrante’s novel and creates tension so thick you could use it for sunscreen. We know what’s going on but how did it happen? TIFF Bell Lightbox and select theatres now and Netflix Dec 31.
An old-fashioned, globe-trotting spy adventure, The King’s Man, in theatres on Dec 22 then Disney Debut, doesn’t disappoint. It’s the origins story of the Kingsman series, and it’s a doozy. Led by an all-star Brit cast – Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode and Charles Dance with Daniel Brühl and an exciting new talent, Harris Dickinson, we’re taken on a mission that will result in the formation of the first private intelligence organisation. World war is imminent pitting socialists and monarchies against one another. Queen Victoria’s three grandsons – all played by Tom Hollander – each rule a country – Russia, Germany and England but the tide is turning against them. A cabal of powerful men headquartered at the top of a dizzyingly high mountain raise goats for rare wool but secretly plot to wipe out millions by launching that war. Fiennes’ magnificently named Orlando Oxford gathers together men and women called The Kingsmen to keep world peace, and immediately, protect the ambitious Archduke Ferdinand. They fail as any schoolchild can tell you. The US refuses to get involved in the war, leaving Eastern and Western Europe and Britain in danger. To cap it, the infamous Rasputin, an evil guru has the Czar’s family in thrall and his intentions are bad. Arterton is Nanny, head of an international network of “nannies” who secure jobs working for the influential, learning sensitive secrets to report to the Kingsmen. Job one – kill Rasputin. As legend has it, he couldn’t be killed – gunshot, poison, drowning, sword through gizzard, nothing – his will was that strong. Lenin, President Wilson, and a DuPont show up – the British Royals change their name from Saxe-Cobourg – too Germanic – to Windsor. This is fun, historically inspired stuff but it is based on a comic book, so it’s not like a history lesson; more a spirited adventure perfectly suited to popcorn.
If you’re still ticked that Debra Messing was passed over to play Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, as I was, you can relax. Nicole Kidman goes for broke, stepping way out of her fragile flower persona to play the brassy, ballsy, opinionated and savvy actor/businesswoman and succeeds. Her throaty laugh/holler nearly floored me and wiped away lingering resentment. Javier Bardem brings Desi Arnaz’ easy charm, sex appeal, intelligence and creativity, and something else – dedication and love for Lucille as a person, despite his many dalliances. Being the Ricardos takes place over a week of shooting an episode of I Love Lucy, the series they created at Desilu Studios that went on to become the best known and loved series in TV history. It’s all there, Lucy and Desi’s driven work ethic, the intense dislike William Frawley and Vivian Vance (J.K. Simmons’s strikingly poetic take on Fred Mertz, and a convincing Nina Arianda as Ethel), Lucy falling under suspicion as a Communist during the Red Scare, Desi’s unrepentant cheating and lying, Lucy’s deep sexual connection to him, and her independence. Sorkin’s character study is no bed of roses, highlighting the tremendous pressures facing the most powerful woman in the industry and her “non-American” husband. The script is dense and smart, as usual, in an unexpectedly dramatic take on the couple. I want more of this, maybe the Ricardos move to the country and the real-life end of the marriage. On Prime Video Dec. 21st.
Riz Ahmed executive produced Flee, the excellent and profound animated story of Amin, an Afghani refugee who escaped his homeland when the Mujahadeen murdered his family. The country fell under Communist rule after the violent overthrow of the monarchy threw it into violent chaos, much like today. International embassies evacuated and dead bodies were everywhere, the airport a hellscape. Amin and remaining family members fled on foot and sometimes 64 to a tractor-trailer, in life-threatening freezing winter conditions through Eastern Europe to Russia where they were brutalised by police and the political system. Eventually, Amin made it to Denmark with some family members, and they were able to settle. Cut to today, he is an academic living and working in Denmark, educated at Princeton, and about to marry his male lover. In Afghanistan when he was coming of age, there was no word for “homosexual” and deep antipathy and danger for LGBTQ+. His story is told as a man reflecting on his life for a documentary, on the eve of his wedding, animated to protect the real-life Amin’s identity. Flee will change the way you think about refugees and underserved peoples of the world in deeper, richer ways. This mindboggling, extremely powerful film asks the question “what is home” and for many in the world, there is no answer. Featuring the voices of Daniel Karimyar, Fardin Mijdzadeh and Milad Eskandari and the ghost of Jean-Claude Van Damme and sensitively directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. TIFF Bell Lightbox and select theatres.
The Novice Lauren Hadaway’s rivetting debut feature, the study of a queer woman competing on her university rowing team will take your breath away. Based on Hadaway’s own experiences, it follows Alex, played with incredible ferocity by Isabelle Fuhrman, as she strives to be the best, whatever the cost. Her obsession costs her on all levels, but nothing will deter her; she trains to the breaking point, alienates team members and the captain. carrying on seemingly buoyed by the negativity to reach her goal. It’s tough and we don’t “like” her, but her campaign is both admirable and sad. Furman’s physical work on camera is jaw-dropping; she’s tiny, with the power of a giant, that is who she is. She’s a loner used to alienation and isolation, and then she finds a woman to love. Hadaway’s character study looks at cruelty, singleminded aspiration and the healing hope of finding balance. A knockout. Co-stars stars Amy Forsyth and Dilone and in select theatres and TVOD.
A powerful woman, a ruler, blessed with great intelligence, empathy and the ability to influence with the best intentions for her people is inspiring. Margrete: Queen Of The North tells the dramatic story of a gifted female ruler, set in 1402, whose wisdom brought together Denmark, Norway and Sweden in a peaceful union. She was a feminist and stateswoman with a gift for understanding people and governing herself ethically despite significant odds. Cabals plotted against her, including members of her own family. The multitalented Danish actor Trine Dyrholm is mesmerizing; as a child, her character witnessed the brutal carnage of war, sparking her dedication to creating peace. She married for love and adopted a son, Prince Erik and there was peace in the region for the first time in centuries. However, Germany poses a threat; she calls for the creation of a massive army and arranges for Erik to marry England’s Princess Phillipa to ensure her union’s safety. Her son Olaf is out of the picture, perhaps dead but someone shows up at a crucial time claiming to be him. The story’s packed with intrigue, and we watch Margrete, born and bred to rule on her extraordinary journey. TVOD and Digital on Tuesday.
Faye Hamilton and Matthew Hill were working on a special tribute documentary on the late Prince Philip to celebrate his 100th birthday and legacy. He died in April 2021 during the shoot, and the doc took on a new poignancy. Members of the Royal Family sat for interviews while he was alive and after, interviews that were personal, emotional and revealing. The result is Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, now airing on Discovery+ and featuring insights from Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Edward, Andrew, Harry and William, Beatrice, Eugene, Zara and Mark Phillips plus other family members and his devoted staff. The Duke of Edinburgh seems larger than life, an avid sportsman, military man, artist, and the longest-serving consort in British history – seven decades. He had a big personality, loved jokes, teasing and horseplay and a deep sense of responsibility. He was dedicated to protecting the planet and launching young people all around the world to succeed through education and sport. HIs insecure humble early years were lived in exile from his native Greece, following a coup, but he created a career for himself in the military, met young Princess Elizabeth and you know the rest. Rare archival footage of the Royals picnicking, sailing, rowing, playing polo, socialising, and a great collection of archival footage make this a must-see for Royal watchers. It is indeed a hagiography, but Prince Philip was one of a kind.
Station Eleven premiering on Crave now is chillingly of the moment. Nomadic survivors of a global, killing flu pandemic are keeping their circles close and looking for a place to rebuild in safety and harmony. A group of actors, the Traveling Symphony, wanders the Great Lakes region staging shows for locals; one night, a member, a famous Hollywood actor dies in the middle of his performance of King Lear. Then a man takes charge of a little actress left alone backstage in Toronto when chaotic pandemic confusion hits, they move to his brother’s highrise condo to wait out the crisis, a woman goes to any lengths to protect her little girl, and she’s savvy. A couple show up and the man tells her he saw the troupe perform in Mackinac, only he mispronounces the island’s name so she dispatches him. Multiple timelines and stories overlap, creating great tension and excitement as threads uniting them become clear. The series spans 15 years, the characters’ lives and fortunes are irretrievably affected by the pandemic and some don’t make it. the overwhelming regret is “I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone”. What a multi-faceted and strange journey. Station Eleven was shot in Oshawa with familiar faces Gael Garcia Bernal and Canadians Deborah Cox, Mackenzie Davis, Prince Amponsah, Himesh Patel, Enrico Colantoni and also Lori Petty.