TIFF ’15 – Day 8: No Country for Old Jorges

Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters. Seriously.
Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters. Seriously.

Must… review… movies…

Into the Forest (Canada, 2015): In her first movie in seven years, Patricia Rozema takes on Jean Hegland’s high school classic and amps the ante to unbearable levels. Set in the proverbial not-too-distant future, Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood are sisters holed up in a cottage in the forest following a massive power outage.

As the lack of electricity lingers, it becomes clear civilization has collapsed and the girls will have to fend threats real and apparent by themselves. Rozema makes great use of Page and Wood apparent fragility to keep the tension going. This is not one of those post-apocalyptic dramas in which one of them succumbs to dementia while the other becomes “the strong one”. Both have virtues and shortcomings, and their complexity makes them compelling.

Ellen Page (in her first starring role since Whip It) and Evan Rachel Wood are superb, particularly the latter in a couple of devastating scenes. Outside some moments of clumsiness at the beginning thanks to some goofy next generation tech, Into the Forest unfolds confidently. Whether it sticks the landing, it’s up to you to decide, but it’s a hell of a ride. Four soon-to-be-roasted prairie dogs.

Keeper (Belgium, 2015): This naturalistic drama makes a strong case for sexual education and pro-choice advocacy. Max (up-and-comer Kacey Mottet Klein) and Melanie are a couple of average teens, neither particularly bright or attractive. They have unprotected intercourse periodically and sure enough, Melanie gets pregnant.

Even though their families recommend ending the pregnancy, Max convinces Melanie to have the baby, confident his soccer skills will provide in the end. While most movies would take the side of the young lovers fighting against all odds, Keeper takes the realistic route: Max is not a good partner at all, and his desire to keep the baby has more to do with a misplaced sense of property than desire to do good for him.

The notion that 15-year olds are completely ill suited to make decisions that could affect the rest of their lives is defensible, but problematic (what if the parents don’t have the teens’ best interest at heart?) Another issue Keeper fails to cover properly is the character of Melanie. While Max is exposed warts and all, the girl has very little agency and is shown as easy to sway. Melanie’s lack of development may be counterproductive for an otherwise unflinching take on teenage pregnancy. Twenty prairie dogs (it would have been three, but there is no planned parenthood for ground squirrels).

Tomorrow, my watch ends.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.