As TIFF moves into its closing weekend, a number of strongly reviewed indie films hit theaters. Four titles -- "Mother of George," "Wadjda," "Blue Caprice" and "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction" -- are sitting with impressive Tomatometer scores of over 90%.
Andrew Dosunmu's "Mother of George," the critical winner of the weekend, is receiving high praise for its lush visuals depicting the story of Nigerian immigrants living in Brooklyn, and one couple's struggle to have a child under harsh cultural expectations. Danai Gurira of "The Walking Dead" stars.
Haifaa Al Mansour's "Wadjda" boasts the title of both the first film to be made inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the first Saudi feature made by a woman filmmaker. It tells the delicate coming-of-age tale of a pre-teen girl who dreams of owning her own bicycle, despite the societal stigma surrounding women who ride bikes. Critics find the film irresistible, as they did upon its Venice premiere a year ago.
Alexandre Moors' Sundance NEXT section hit "Blue Caprice" is a moody, very slow-to-burn thriller based on the real-life events of the Beltway sniper attacks in the DC area in 2002. Instead of exploiting the harrowing events, the film focuses on the perpetrators, even establishing a subtly sympathetic case for them (here played by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond).
Sophie Huber's documentary "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction" centers on the ruggedly complected actor of the title, and brings in friends and filmmakers like David Lynch and Wim Wenders to discuss Stanton's entrancing on-screen quality and legacy in the movies.The New York Times calls it "an unusually poetic biopic."
Finally, critics aren't heaping praise on James Wan's "Insidious: Chapter 2" in quite the same way they did for his other horror title this year, "The Conjuring." This new sequel, starring franchise originals Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson, is sitting with an even 50% on the Tomatometer -- not too bad, not too good. The box office may prove more receptive, however.
Mother of George Dir. Andrew Dosunmu, USA | Oscilloscope Pictures | Cast: Danai Gurira, Isaach De Bankole, Yaya Alafia, Anthony Okungbowa | 100% Fresh | Variety: "Simply relating the narrative of Andrew Dosunmu’s seductive immigrant drama Mother of George would do little to convey the film’s stark, poetic power, much less its extraordinary visual and sonic acumen." | Gurira was the star of the Women Kick Ass panel at Comic-Con.
Wadjda Dir. Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia | Sony Pictures Classics | Cast: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah | 97% Fresh | Guardian: "You'd need a heart of stone not to be won over by Wadjda, a rebel yell with a spoonful of sugar and a pungent sense of a Riyadh society split between the home, the madrasa and the shopping mall." | Our TOH! interview with director Haifaa Al Mansour
Blue Caprice Dir. Alexandre Moors, USA | Sundance Selects | Cast: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Tim Blake Nelson, Joey Lauren Adams | 95% Fresh | Indiewire: "Moors isolates a well-known drama with the fleeting nonfiction prologue and explores it from the inside out: It's not an attempted reenactment, but it does aim to get at certain truths."
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction Dir. Sophie Huber, USA | Adopt Films | Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard, Deborah Harry, Kris Kristofferson | 93% Fresh | New York Times: "Matching her subject’s lackadaisical rhythms, Ms. Huber has shaped an unusually poetic biopic."
Insidious: Chapter 2 Dir. James Wan, USA | FilmDistrict | Cast: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey | 50% Rotten | Time Out London: "For all but the most forgiving horror fans, this is a lazy,
stupid and incoherent failure."