One advantage of a premiere screening, of which there are many come SBIFF-time, is the unusual freshness of the cinematic produce. Premieres can create firewalls against that dreaded disease which has reached epidemic proportions in today’s movie-hungry world: the plot-spoiler. You aren’t pre-fed telling or teasing narrative details via trailers. Your over-sharing friends can’t rain on your parade. It’s a rare and beautiful thing.
And that kind of plot protection program is especially important when it comes to a clever, knottily-constructed suspense maze like the cool, cyber-wise British nail biter uwantme2killhim?, which had its U.S. premiere before a sold-out house on Wednesday morning. Without giving much away, the pieces of the deliciously tangled plot puzzle involve possible terrorists, possible government skullduggery, and, most importantly, the wild imaginations of internet-addled adolescents, deeply plugged into chatting as a form of communication, violent video game catharsis, and detachment from reality.
Director Andrew Douglas has skillfully maneuvered a script based on a true story from England in 2003, based on a Vanity Fair article, into a web of trickery between characters and us, on the beholding end. In a Q&A after the screening, Douglas explained how the process of developing the script including him shifting its focus from “something more dramatic into something of a genre film,” in this case, the genre being something akin to the roundabout storytelling and backflips of Usual Suspects.
Say no more.
FF FUNZONING: Yes, there will be blood, gloom, and existential angst at the SBIFF, or any film festival worth its salt and medium-celebrating cred. But fun must be had, as well, and the program thus far has revealed an impressive balancing act of emotional and stylistic tonalities and moods.
Levity is allowed here, as witness a film such as the shamelessly fizzy Israeli delight Cupcakes. It’s a literally colorful and carbonated lark of a flick, about an accidental posse of amateur singers who find themselves turning into instant celebrities-in-the-making by winning a place in the transnational singing competition known as “UnverSong.” Captain and Tenille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” is one of the recurring musical themes, a sure sign that campy lightness is in the house here, but the other veritable theme song is the group’s genuinely catchy ditty, “Anat, You’ve Got the Guts.” The storyline breezes past slightly serious subjects, such as artistic integrity vs. show biz circus-y glitz, and the “fight for authenticity,” but really, director Eylan Fox’s film insists on taking itself lightly, and embracing the giddy glee of it all.
Another charmer in the roster, from a very different angle, is the Quebecois director Louise Arambault’s film Gabrielle, which, beyond its naturalistic and admirable focus on the life of disabled young people, is an almost painfully sweet love story. At the center of the story is the title character, afflicted with Williams Syndrome (as is the remarkable actress, Gabrielle Marion-Rivard), who yearns for some measure of independent living, and yearns even more deeply for her love interest, Martin (Alexandre Landry), to the chagrin of sex-fearing parents and caretakers. Other plots weave into the refreshingly easy-flowing and organic tale, including a big show at a choir festival, backing suave French-Canadian singer Robert Charlebois, but the tender, beating heart of this film is the pulsing power of love, despite obstacles.