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The TIFF Review Report: Day 6 ('The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,' 'The Sacrament,' 'How I Live Now,' 'Dom Hemingway')

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire September 11, 2013 at 1:04PM

Mirrored stories of a marriage dissolving, found footage of a cult community dissolving, impending World War III behind a childhood dissolving and Jude Law's poetic cursing: all part of the sixth full day at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
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James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her"
James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her"

The TIFF Review Report rounds up some of the festival's notable premieres, along with a sampling of their reviews and tweets from Ontario's capital. Here are some of the highlights from Tuesday's critical chatter.

"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her"
Category: Special Presentations
Director: Ned Benson
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, William Hurt, Bill Hader, Viola Davis
Synopsis: "Following a horrific tragedy, the enviable marriage between Conor (James McAvoy), a restaurant owner, and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain), a returning college student, begins to fall apart. With each day worse than the last, their connection starts deteriorating, until one day Eleanor just disappears...."

Reviews

Deborah YoungThe Hollywood Reporter
"
Many will be quick to recognize the Rashomon conceit, in which different, highly subjective viewpoints contribute information about the same event, information that may be true or false. Since Benson’s characters are almost frighteningly sincere and truthful, the slight discrepancies that crop up in their overlapping scenes seem owing to tricks of memory rather than a desire to deceive."

Nikola Grozdanović, The Playlist
"Perhaps it sounds all a bit too Hallmark (to use one of the characters phrases), and in the hands of some of other less talented artists these kinds of stories can nosedive straight into the territory of some bad made-for-cable Lifetime movie. But Benson’s multi-layered, organically paced, delicate and quite often hilarious screenplay holds it all together with wit and brio."

Adriana Floridia, Movie Mezzanine
"
Director/writer Ned Benson is a truly original talent that everyone needs to keep their eye on. It is absolutely astounding that this is his first feature, as he has crafted something so beautiful, poetic, and profound that many filmmakers spend their whole lives trying to achieve."

Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine
"
Benson's two-part study of a relationship torn apart by grief is not only a remarkable directorial debut but a stunning emotional study, in whichever order you experience it...Benson has been working on this project in close collaboration with Chastain and Cassandra Kulukundis for nearly a decade, and the compassion he has for his characters shines through in every frame."

Tweets

David Ehrlich, Film.com
"ELEANOR RIGBY: Chastain kills in a heartfelt & cleverly mirrored 2-parter about love on the ropes, but too many knots in flat script."

John Oursler, Sound on Sight
"
DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY tore my heart out. Beautiful, compassionate filmmaking. Incredible debut by Benson."

Stephen Saito, The Moveable Fest
"
If you're at TIFF, you owe it to yourself to see Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Completely destroyed me & my favorite film in 4 years here."

Noel Murray, The Dissolve
"
DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: Indie drama in duplicate, first thru his eyes then hers. Gimmick's rarely illuminating but often affecting."

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The Sacrament, Ti West

"The Sacrament"
Category: Vanguard
Director: Ti West
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, William Hurt, Bill Hader, Viola Davis
Synopsis: "Patrick (Kentucker Audley) is a fashion photographer. When his colleagues Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg, who also stars in Proxy in this year’s Vanguard program), correspondents for Vice magazine, catch wind of a letter he received from his estranged sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz), they decide her story would be a great subject for a documentary — she's living in a "sober" commune at an unnamed location outside the United States. The three set off for a visit. While Patrick reunites with his sister, Sam and Jake investigate why members of the isolated community have followed a mysterious leader they call Father off American soil. Understandably skeptical at first, the guys slowly come around to the group's utopian claims."

Reviews

Samuel Zimmerman, Fangoria
"While often excellent, West’s previous films are essentially campfire stories; “A girl takes a babysitting job and…,” “Two innkeepers are alone for the weekend and…”. THE SACRAMENT, rather, finds parallel with the worrisome hold political and religious leaders have over sects and parties with increasingly extreme and isolating worldviews."

Ryland Aldrich, Twitch
"The performances are strong across the board. This has been a hallmark of West's other films and it is no different here. It's also a big part of the reason the film works so well."

Andrew Parker, Dork Shelf
"A lengthy showdown between the equally excellent Bowen and Jones giving an interview in front of an audience is some of the best writing and directing West has displayed, and the film itself is a tightly contrasted, slow burning thriller."

Kamran Ahmed, Next Projection
"With hand camera movement, direct address, and a sharp narrative style, the film has a gritty sense of realism that is only surpassed by its ability to increase suspense up until its final moments."

Tweets

Scott Tobias, The Dissolve
"THE SACRAMENT (West) West still a master at building tension, but repurposing Jim Jones as docu-horror is really in questionable taste."

Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
"Ti West's THE SACRAMENT, an eerie modern realization of a Jonestown-like community is his most effective work to date."

A.A. Dowd, The AV Club
"THE SACRAMENT (West '13): Can this dude just get back to riffing on old horror movies? He's not so great at found-footage."

Sean Dwyer, Film Junk
"Ti West's The Sacrament: a fictionalized found footage take on Jonestown. Effective but maybe a little too straightforward."

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"How I Live Now"
Category: Special Presentations
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, George MacKay
Synopsis: "Drawing on Meg Rosoff's prizewinning young-adult novel, this is the story of Daisy, a tough, blond punk (Saoirse Ronan) sent from her ultra-urban life in America to stay with distant relations in remote rural England. With her black t-shirt and eyebrow piercing she's immediately out of place, but that's the least of her worries. In this near-future, war has broken out, and as white ash falls from the skies and the military evacuates the cities, she's forced to depend on people she barely knows."

Reviews

Mark Adams, Screen Daily
"Kevin Macdonald directs with grace and ease, and imbues the scenes of the youngsters embracing their rural idyll with a delightful bucolic charm. He seems less at ease in the scenes involving gunplay and danger, but the film is not really about action...but is simply a tale of young love divided."

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"From this low-key and moderately promising set-up, 'How I Live Now' descends into by-the-book romantic longing as well as inane survival melodrama flecked by a handful of arresting doomsdayish imagery."

Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist
"Commercial prospects be damned—it results in an intense, fascinating character study nestled in an inconsistent shell. Macdonald’s unique direction and Ronan’s jittery performance makes the film a worthy watch; now let’s hope the book’s younger fans find guardians aware of 'Grave of the Fireflies' and its disturbing merits."

Henry Barnes, The Guardian
"The production design looks tired and despondent. The opportunity to show England on the curdle is wasted. There's a lack of imagination at play - it's OK if a broken society looks drab, but it shouldn't look boring."

Leora HeilbronnIoncinema
"Central character Daisy spends the majority of the film wrestling with her dueling voices but eventually she finds her own true voice. 'How I Live Now,' however, does not."

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"Dom Hemingway"
Category: Special Presentations
Director: Richard Shepard
Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter, Madalina Ghenea, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Synopsis: "Released from prison twelve years after taking the fall to protect his benefactor, Mr. Fontaine, Dom admits to 'anger problems,' which he vents as soon as he tastes the heady oxygen of freedom. The years of bottled frustration and anger and pent-up emotions are released like a champagne cork before he is summoned to France to see the big boss. Accompanied by his longtime sidekick, given a beautiful turn by the incomparable Richard E. Grant, Dom luxuriates in the bucolic pleasures of a country estate whilst also ogling the expansive allure of Fontaine's high-class moll."

Reviews

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com
"'Dom Hemingway' is a success because it finds the balance. No, this isn’t the BEST crime movie or the BEST redemption story or even the BEST British character-based comedy. But it is nevertheless a very pleasant combination where all the spokes compliment one another."

Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon
"Violent, vulgar and coked out of his mind, Shepard and Law have conspired to create the kind of character I love to see on screen. But his rage-filled antics, and pent up aggression after 12 years behind bars aren't all that define Hemingway, which is why the film ultimately works."

David Sexton, London Evening Standard
"For half its length, Dom Hemingway is a pastiche of Tarantino, complete with mock chapter-headings: extremely stylised verbal obscenity combined with brutal physical violence, emphatically performed not only by Law but by his languid sidekick, Richard E Grant."

Matt Goldberg, Collider
"Law approaches Dom with all of the seriousness of a Shakespeare character. The actor’s commitment to his character makes Hemingway’s unrelenting vanity and spite truly mind-blowing. Shepard’s vulgar language rolls off Law’s tongue like beautiful poetry."

Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
"While there's no doubt that Shepard's film is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and impressively, wittily written, with a finely tuned ear for the perfect bit of foul language, it stumbles slightly on the story side. For all the script's inventiveness, there are some plot contrivances within that strain just a little too hard to attempting wrap things up in a bow, and the movie doesn't quite hit the dramatic notes it wants to."

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You can read more Review Report dispatches on the following films below:
"August: Osage County"
"Devil's Knot"
"Enemy"
"The Fifth Estate"

This article is related to: TIFF Review Report, Toronto International Film Festival, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, The Sacrament, How I Live Now, Dom Hemingway


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