This was my first visit to Toronto International Film Festival and I managed to see more films than I’ve ever seen in my life. Honestly, since leaving uni I’ve never seen so many films in such a short period.I was lucky enough to have been selected by the Scottish Film Talent Network to attend. This basically meant that they flew me out, paid for my pass and accommodation. I’ll do a separate blog on the SFTN and TIFF but for now here’s my selection of films to see. Actually, less of a selection, more the random bunch that my industry pass got me into between meetings.
So my lead criteria, would I go and spend my pennies seeing the films. Listed by order of likelihood of parting with my cash. Near the top yes I would, near the bottom- hmm, not so much.
DARKEST HOUR J. WRIGHT
What the TIFF programme says: Gary Oldman steps into the imposing persona of Winston Churchill in this period drama from director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), set in the early years of World War II.
My comment: My top pick. I’ve seen quite a lot of Churchill dramas where you can’t escape the actor that’s performing the part. Oldman just isn’t there, it’s completely Churchhill. The mood from the lighting, an exceptional cast make and a cracking script makes this one a big hit. A fab window into the beginning of WWII in the UK.
THE DEATH OF STALIN A. LANNUCCI
What the TIFF programme says: Armando Iannucci (Veep) directs Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, and Andrea Riseborough in this acerbic send-up of the Soviet dictator and the bootlick Ministers who vie for power after his sudden demise
My comment: Bloody brilliant! If you like Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and a bit of Dads Army you’ll love it. Some well-known faces including good old Michael Palin. Something that shouldn’t be funny just happens to be the best thing ever! Sometimes when you put a bunch of comedians together, who should be great on screen, it feels like a limp handshake. Well this is firm and solid and worth seeing in a full cinema.
What the TIFF programme says: Borg/McEnroe tells the story of the epic rivalry between Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and his greatest adversary, the brash American John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf), which came to a head during the 1980 Wimbledon Championships.
My comment: So this is a film focusing more on Borg than McEnroe . I really enjoyed it as it took me back to the 80’s and tennis combo that I remember being on the telly when I was young. Both leads worked. It didn’t make you particularly like either players but it told a good story and I loved some of the framing and styling along the way.
LADY BIRD G. GERWIG
What the TIFF programme says: A rebellious young woman (Saoirse Ronan) navigates the pressures and constraints of Catholic school and life in Sacremento, in Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut.
My comment: A coming of age flick and so well done. The script is just great and our protagonist ‘Lady Bird’ played by Saoirse Ronan is both warm and beautifully honest. A great first outing for Gerwig.
THE SHAPE OF WATER G. DEL TORO
What the TIFF programme says: At the height of the Cold War, circa 1962, two workers in a high-tech US government laboratory (Sally Hawkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) discover a terrifying secret experiment, in this otherworldly fairytale from Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).
My comment: I really loved the opening sequence of the film, worth it for that alone. A cross between Amélie, War Games and Tanlged, well kind of. Honestly, it’s great. The thriller side of it is a bit long but the styling, characters and performances are brilliant.
CARDINALS G. MOORE, A. SHIPLEY
What the TIFF programme says: When Valerie (Sheila McCarthy) returns home from prison years after killing her neighbour in an apparent drunk driving accident, she wants nothing more than to move on — until the deceased’s son shows up at her door and it becomes clear that the past is not easily forgotten.
My comment: This script sparkles. Cleverly written with subtle humour tinged with sadness. All the performances work well with only the ending feeling a little clunky. A good film.
WOMAN WALKS AHEAD S. WHITE
What the TIFF programme says: Jessica Chastain stars in the true story of Catherine Weldon, a 19th-century Brooklyn artist who travelled to the Dakota Territory and became the confidante of legendary Sioux chief Sitting Bull.
My comment: A worthy story and beautifully acted. It makes you want to find out more about that bit of history. It does lack pace and feels overly long but worthy of a watch.
VICTORIA & ABDUL S. FREARS
What the TIFF programme says: Acclaimed British auteur Stephen Frears reunites with his Philomenastar, Academy Award winner Judi Dench, in this charming dramedy chronicling the friendship between Queen Victoria and a decades-younger Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.
My comment: Not as good as either the Kings Speech or Mrs Brown. Some will love the rich sumptuous Royal court settings and Izzard is great as the grumpy King in-waiting but the film just didn’t engage as much as the previous Royal films of recent times.
DOWNSIZING A. PAYNE
What the TIFF programme says: Matt Damon headlines a cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin, and Neil Patrick Harris in Alexander Payne’s sci-fi social satire about a man who chooses to shrink himself (literally) to simplify his life.
My comment: A funny idea for a film and I didn’t feel aggrieved to have spent time watching it but was left wondering why you’d bother. I couldn’t get round how easily squished you could be at 10cm tall. That alone ruled out the whole basis of the film.
What the TIFF programme says: A lower-caste boxer struggles to make his mark on the boxing world, in the highly anticipated film from Anurag Kashyap.
My comment: Ok first caveat, when I sat down to watch this one I was expecting an Irish horror set in a haunted mansion. Needless to say I was in the wrong cinema. This feels like Rocky with a cultural shift. I believe it may be based on a true story and does highlight the plight of women in a patriarchal society as well as families living in a caste system. This film is way to long with too many ending and sorry, wouldn’t want to go near again. Why does it still beat the ones below, because at least it’s got a story!!
GOOD FAVOUR R. DALY
What the TIFF programme says: In Irish director Rebecca Daly’s subtle and brilliantly realized parable, a teenage stranger welcomed into a household in a devout Christian village gradually reveals his mysterious motives — and what seem to be magical powers.
My comment: I can’t help thinking of the Emperors New Clothes, partly because I’ve been reading it to my four year old recently. However, in this case it’s because maybe if you have to look so hard to find meaning in something then maybe there isn’t any. Overheard lots of comments as I was coming out saying ‘wow wasn’t that amazing.. not sure.. what happened but great right?’. So, nicely filmed, lots of lovely detailed close-ups and good performances all round. But at the end of the day ‘??’.
VALLEY OF SHADOWS J. GULBRANDSEN
What the TIFF programme says: A young boy ventures into the forest in search of mysterious creatures that eat sheep, in this delightfully creepy Scandinavian Gothic fable from Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen.
My comment: Too slow!!! Just takes forever. My ‘favourite’ slow shot- a boat gently floats into shot. Oh no, they’re going to make us watch the thing float all the way across. Still floating across, ok it’s got halfway, waiting, head buts programme, and it’s out of shot, I SAID ITS OUT OF SHOT!!!! CUT TO THE NEXT SHOT PLEASE!!! The kid in it’s good though 🙂
Time to take @firstonlymovie to a film festival (not for screening yet! Still in post!) delighted to be selected by @sftnetwork to go to @tiff_net #indiefilm #filmnews #filmmaking #thriller #director #producer #mw #tiff2017 #featurefilm #film #independentfilm #independentcinema
Had the great pleasure of working with one of Scotland’s acting greats, Siobhan Redmond for @firstonlymovie. Great day on a quiet bank holiday Monday in London. Easy parking! Thanks to Janet and Pete for helping out!
Fantastic weather up at Tain for the successful reintroduction of oysters to the Dornoch Firth. Just finished the second film for Glenmorangie and their partners, Heriot-Watt University and Marine Conservation Scotland. A stunning few days filming on land and firth with drones, underwater cameras etc.
Congratulations to everyone for such a successful project.
Below is the two films produced by Greenroom for Glenmorangie.
Completion of Principle Photography for First and Only. We’ve had an amazing six weeks of film. We only got rained on once and the crew were as tight as a pair of Robin Hood’s stockings. Seriously, a great crew, a great cast and some amazing fights and stunts. Can’t wait to get it out there for people to see. Just a small edit to go.
We are delighted to announce the cast for new psychic thriller First and Only. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by author Peter Flannery and directed by award-winning director Magnus Wake the film sees a welcome return to the big screen for James Robinson who first made his acting debut as young William Wallace in Braveheart. In First and Only James will play the ominous figure of serial killer Mal whose religious killing spree can only be stopped by Simon, a mysteriously gifted young man who has been haunted by Mal since witnessing his first murder as a boy. Simon is played by Waterloo Road star Shane O’Meara who seeks assistance in his mission from hardened ex-SAS man Steve Brennus, played by well-known Scottish actor Jim Sturgeon.
In addition the cast will include; Maggie Bain, Graeme McKnight, Sandy Welch, Ian Hanmore, Shonagh Price, Kim Allan, Kenny Blyth, Kern Falconer, Pauline Turner, Sharon Young, Alisdair Hankinson, Mya Green.
Filming begins in Edinburgh in late March ahead of an expected Autumn 2017 release. The script is adapted by Geoff Holder and Alistair Rutherford from the Amazon best-selling novel First and Only by Peter Flannery.
This strong cast announcement is the latest success for a feature film that became Scotland’s most crowdfunded movie in pounds raising over £50,000 ($75,000) in November 2014. A short film made from the crowdfunding included cast from Outlander and Game of Thrones and was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival- Short Film Corner. It has proved very successful internationally, selected for festivals in LA, London, Amsterdam and Berlin.
James had his first success on screen when he was 10-years-old. He garnered much acclaim for his performance as the young William Wallace in Mel Gibson’s 5 Oscar® winning blockbuster, Braveheart (1995). On the screen, Robinson was seen in Danny Boyles highly acclaimed police dramady, “Babylon” and Neil Jordan’s epic series “The Borgias” with Jeremy Irons and Gina McKee. Also on television, Robinson had guest starring roles on the BBC dramas “Doctors” and “Casualty”. He is currently playing Greg Edgars in Golden Globe® Nominated “Outlander” produced by Sony Pictures Television for Starz. Robinson remains active in the theatre and is involved with the National Theatre of Scotland where he performed the play “In Time O’ Strife” for the company as part of a UK tour in 2014. His other theatre credits include “Brassed Off” at the York Theatre Royal and National Tour; J. B. Priestley’s “They Came To A City” at the Southwark Playhouse, London; William Shakespeare’s “King John” at The Union Theatre, London; “I Didn’t Always Live Here” written by Stewart Conn and directed by Lisa Blair at The Finborough Theatre in London.
Shane O’ Meara
Shane O’Meara came to prominence playing troubled Scots schoolboy Connor Mulgrew, at odds with his alcoholic mother, in the long-running television series ‘Waterloo Road’. Having been born in Ireland when Shane was seven the family moved to Livingston, Scotland where he went to school and from there he went on to study High Drama and Acting at Edinburgh Telford College and Dundee College, graduating in 2011. Other than a role in the short film ‘Weaverfish’, made in Fife, ‘Waterloo Road’ was his first significant part and in 2015 he joined the cast of Midlands-based soap ‘Doctors’.
Jim can be seen in feature films such as Justice League, ’71 and the Edge of Tomorrow’. On television, Jim has had roles in Shetland, Katie Morag, Hope Springs and more. As well as his film and television work Jim has also worked extensively on stage in theatres throughout his native Scotland and as well as in London’s West End. He has also played in theatres in America and Australia while touring with Kneehigh Theatre’s acclaimed production of ‘Brief Encounter’ where he played the role of Dr Alec Harvey alongside Hannah Yelland who played Laura. He recently shared the west end stage with Kenneth Cranham and Claire Skinner in the critically acclaimed and award-winning play ‘The Father’.
Shane O’Meara as Simon Eildon
Jim Sturgeon as Steve Brennus
James Robinson as Mal
Maggie Bain as Chatham
Graeme McKnight as Stokes
Sandy Welch as Johns
Ian Hanmore as Father Kavanagh
Shonagh Price as Judy Eildon
Pauline Turner as Else Scire
Kern Falconer as Professor Richet
Sharon Young as Christine Brennus
Kenny Blyth as PC Cearns
Kim Allan as Alison
Alisdair Hankinson as Gerald Gifford
Mya Green as Sally Brennus
For the latest information on the film visit: www.firstandonlymovie.com
First and Only has been selected by Film London to take part in their Micro Market and Production Finance Market. We are 1 of only 7 UK projects chosen in this very competitive scheme, so it’s great to be recognised and be part of that group. All going well it should bring in more finance options for the film. Director Magnus Wake and Producer Simone Bett will attend.
“Designed specifically for filmmakers with small budgets but big ambitions, the Micro Market stream of Production Finance Market (PFM) gives filmmakers on a budget the chance to pitch to financiers looking for projects with a smaller price tag. The stream is designed to support projects budgeted at levels not currently served by other finance markets, and help filmmakers source finance for specific feature films.”