[SIFF Despatches: Issue Four]


It never would have occurred to me to put Jay Duplass in space; maybe I was wrong about that. This indie scifi never quite jelled for me – the combination of difficulty hearing dialogue through helmet distortion plus my irritation at the blatant Mal Reynolds impression of Pedro Pascal’s character got in the way – but I loved the DIY retro design of it all, the lush rainforest setting, and the lead actress, Sophie Thatcher.

The Place

A man sits at the back table at a diner all day long, (all white) people come to him with their wishes, and he assigns them a (generally horrible) task to complete to have the wish granted. More engaging than you’d expect from a single-location film, & I dug trying to work out how the threads might connect, but it was missing something for me. It ended exactly the way I wanted it to, though.

See You Up There

A story of Great War veterans attempting to profit off war profiteers, this film relies on several improbable coincidences, but worked for me thanks to its heightened sense of reality. Also, I’m a sucker for brothers-in-arms stories, especially this borderline queer, Louise Has Two Daddies situation. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, of last year’s terrific BPM, was the perfect choice for the wounded, masked veteran with his huge, expressive eyes. I need a copy of the score.

Making the Grade

Rather than following individuals through testing in a high stakes pass/fail situation, this documentary on piano students working their way through the grade system in Ireland introduces us to students and their teachers at each level. The students (not all young people, also not all white) are seen in their homes as well as in lessons with their kind, firm, and often quietly hilarious teachers. A lovely slice of many lives, funny, moving, perfectly paced.