Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.
Spring film festival season continues in Toronto with the Canadian Film Fest. This annual event showcases new indie features along with short films before each movie. Films range from horror to comedies to dramatic thrillers, but they’re all made by Canadians. There’s even a Rob Ford movie.
This week I’m looking at movies about memories and dreams. There’s a British look at a forgotten past, and a Canadian take on the American dream.
An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman
Wri/Dir: Ken Finkleman
William (Jake Croker) is a corn-fed high school football player whose NFL dreams are shattered with an untimely tackle. So he sets out to make it on just his moxie and good looks. He bounces from Wall Street to skid row, from porn actor to bible thumper in a matter of days. And the omnipresent cameras, reality shows, and fake news networks turn William into a national hero. This is an outsiders’ view of America as a land of God, guns, and puritans obsessed with pervy sex. There’s government surveillance and a culture of fear that’s all but drowned out by a steady stream of celebrity adulation. That’s the American Dream covered by this picaresque, dark comedy.
It’s by Ken Finkleman, known for his screenplays and CBC comedies. This one is a lot of fun.
The Sense of an Ending
Dir: Ritesh Batra (Based on the novel by Julian Barnes)
Tony (Jim Broadbent) is a divorced, retired Englishman whose adult daughter Susie is pregnant. He and his divorced wife, a lawyer, take turns going to pregnancy classes with Susie. And he spends his time running a tiny, vintage camera shop. But his dull, eventless life is shaken up by an unexpected letter. In university, he fell for Veronica, an aloof and pretty woman. He spent a crucial weekend at her home, where he met her sexually vivacious mother Sarah, her ineffectual father and her Cambridge-educated brother. The letter he receives is a legal document — Veronica’s mother Sarah is dead, and he’s mentioned in her will. She left him the diaries of Tony’s best friend Adrian Finn who died many years ago. This brings back a flood of memories of his youth.
Adrian once remarked that history is written by the victors of wars, and we can never know the thoughts of a dead man, one who chose his own ending, unless we are inside his head. So he is determined to read Adrian’s diary. But he’s blocked from doing so by Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) who hands him a letter he wrote instead of Adrian’s diary.
You see, when they were all students Tony discovered that his best friend had an affair with his first crush. And faced with such a cruel act of betrayal he wrote a spiteful letter to Adrian cursing him and Veronica and any children they might have. To hell with them all. And now, he is haunted by those words.
So to clear his conscience, and to find out the truth, he starts following Veronica around and enquiring about her family and her past. But the truth he finds is way beyond what he ever expected.
The Sense of an Ending is a fantastic retelling of Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize-winning novel. It’s told through Tony’s recollections, as he relives his lost past with the revelations of these letters. And as his perceived memories change with each shocking revelation, we see the old Tony superimposed in his memories of his younger self. I love Julian Barnes’s novels, and it turns out I read this one years ago, but the movie version was different enough that it didn’t spoil the story. This is a surprisingly moving film told in a gently shocking way. And the acting is fantastic – not just Broadbent and Rampling, but the entire cast. Great movie.
The Sense of an Ending starts today in Toronto; check your local listings. An American Dream is the opening night film at the Canadian Film Fest. For tickets go to canfilmfest.ca. This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.