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TIFF 2015: Remember

rememberSo begins Day 4 of my trip to the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s 9:30 in the morning and I’ve already seen 9 films and am worried that TIFF fatigue may be setting in. How much enthusiasm ccan I possibly muster up in four days?

If I didn’t have such high hopes for the latest film from Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Herafter), I probably would have been more tempted to sleep in. Unfortunately, the trailer and write-up on the festival’s website had really caught my attention. I was not disappointed.

Egoyan specifically asked us to write spoiler-free reviews, which I have to admit made me feel pretty special to be getting a direct appeal from such a respected filmmaker so I want to respect his wishes. I can tell you that Christopher Plummer plays Zev, a Holocaust survivor who is now living in a nursing home. With his memory beginning to incline, he has no choice but to follow the mysterious Max (Martin Landau)’s step-by-step instructions to escape from the home and track down and exact vengence on the former Auschwitz guard who murdered both their families over 70 years ago.

Remember works equally well as a thriller as psychological thriller as it does meditation on memory and trauma. There are elements throughout the film that you may have seen before but the creative casting of the 85 year-old Plummer as the lead keeps the story from ever feeling too derivative.


Devil’s Knot

This movie tells the true story of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, a trio of young boys went missing, and were later found on the bottom of a creek, bound with their own shoelaces, savagely beaten, and dead either of their injuries, or of injuries combined with drowning.

The local police force bungles the investigation. When a restaurant manager calls to say a man covered in blood is sitting in their ladies’ restroom, a patrolwoman eventually shows up, at the drive through, and never comes inside. The crime scene is trampled, the coroner isn’t called, the bodies are left out in the sun. Fair to say that when whispers of a satanic cult surface, the cops are all too happy to suckle at the teat of a convenient scapegoat, and within a month, three teenage boys are arrested and charged with the murders, though two maintain their innocence while a third, mentally retarded, has a confession coerced from him after an exhausting 12 hours of interrogation.

Reese Witherspoon plays the mother of one of the victims. She is haunted by little Stevie, devils-knottmourns him viciously, but still can’t shake the many questions that seem to surface during the trial. Colin Firth plays an investigator who donates his services to the defense team because although the accused are young, a sentence of death is still on the line.

Atom Egoyan does a capable job of telling a chilling story. He hits all the right marks, and I can tell you this, and you may know this yourself, from the many compelling documentaries that have been offered over the years. I already know all the right marks. Within the past year, I watched a documentary called West of Memphis produced by one of the convicted murderers himself, a riveting piece that chronicles the events meticulously. Paradise Lost is a trilogy concerning the case. Devil’s Knot, therefore, is late to the party and fails to add to the conversation in a meaningful way.


Catherine is a gynecologist, successful and assured. Her home is beautiful, her teenage son accomplished, and her husband, David, a respected professor. But there’s a crack in all this perfection, one that gets exposed when David (Liam Neeson) misses his flight home, and thus, the perfectly executed surprise party thrown by his wife (Julianne Moore). Catherine quickly suspects there’s more at fault than just bad timing – can her husband, an incorrigible flirt, be having an affair?

Paranoid, Catherine hires Chloe, an escort, to get to the truth. She asks Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to approach her husband and see what happens. Already we’re all groaning. Such a bad idea, a terrifically bad idea. The minute you start deriving tests of loyalty orMV5BYmFhZGQ2ODYtNTg0NC00NzQwLWE0MjYtMTY1OThlZWMwNThlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDY2NzgwOTE@._V1_ faithfulness for your loved one, you have a problem, and – spoiler alert! – it’s you. Although, guess what? The minute you start hiring prostitutes, you have a problem. Now Julianne Moore has two problems, and they’re multiplying like rabbits at a problem convention.

Atom Egoyan made Chloe in 2009: it was a good year to be Amanda Seyfriend, a bad year to be Liam Neeson (his real-life wife died during while this was being filmed – he took 2 days off), and a confusing time to be Julianne Moore, a woman at the top of her game, apparently reduced to making Fatal Attraction knock-offs. Chloe is supposed to be a psycho-sexual thriller, but there are at least 2 problems with that. One: it ain’t sexy. I mean, Moore’s character tries her very best to convince you that it is. She has Chloe describe her encounters in every lascivious detail, then rushes home, nipples taut, to masturbate in the shower. But the chemistry, which must have dripped off the page for these actors to consider it, is not evident on screen. Two: neither are the thrills. We see Egoyan’s twists from a mile away, because they’ve had their blinker on the whole time. Not only do I know where we’re going, I know exactly how we’ll get there. So yeah, both the sexual and the thriller in the psycho-sexual thriller are lacking. But at least there’s the psycho! Oh man, the manipulation is firing on all cylinders. It’s so forthright you might not even find it believable, or remotely plausible. I’m so glad that a movie veering off into left field doesn’t spoil its watchability for me AT ALL.

Moore and Neeson are very good actors, and they’re very good in this. Sometimes you even forget you’re watching a piece of shit. But not for long!