REVIEWS: The Saver, 600 Miles, Louder Than Bombs

An adaptation of a Montreal-set Young Adult Novel, a very different drug cartel movie and a film about grief, all screening today at the Festival du nouveau cinéma.

The Saver

Imajyn Cardinal in The Saver

The Festival du nouveau cinéma runs through Oct. 18. Here are reviews of three films that have their first screenings at the festival today.

The Saver

Watching The Saver, I realized something that I had never really given much thought to: not too many people adapt Young Adult novels if they can’t stick a Liam Hemsworth or one of the Jonas Brothers in there or at least make it into a long, billion-dollar saga. I wasn’t aware before seeing it that The Saver was based on a Montreal-set YA novel by Edeet Ravel, but it certainly shows in its multi-character, coming-of-age structure. It’s not a bad thing to make a film aimed at teenagers that feels personal and organic, but much like director Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s previous feature Stay, The Saver is too heavily indebted to the structure and pacing of the novelistic form.

Fern (Imajyn Cardinal) lives with her mother, a housecleaner whose schedule is so intense she has little time to spend with her. When her mother dies of a massive stroke, Fern is left to her own devices, which leave her few options besides falling into the paws of Youth Protection or being creative. Fixated on the idea of saving enough to become a millionaire, she takes one job as a concierge in NDG and another as a cook in a Haitian restaurant.

Obviously operating with a limited budget and resources, von Carolsfeld weaves an intimate and organic portrait of life on the lower end of Montreal’s socioeconomic scale that doesn’t necessarily feel gritted up for show (I know people who lived in the building that Fern ends up working in and I’ve eaten at the restaurant several times, if that says anything). Unfortunately, the film’s structure feels episodic at best and haphazard at worst, and the film’s many constraints mean a lot of the supporting characters come off as caricatures more than anything. It’s heartfelt but slight.

The Saver is screening at UQAM’s Pavillon Judith-Jasmin, Salle Jean-Claude Lauzon (1564 St-Denis) on Thursday, Oct. 8, 3 p.m. and at Concordia’s J.A. de Sève Cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Sunday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.

600 Miles


Tim Roth and Kristyan Ferrer in 600 Miles

Mexican cartels are getting their (fourth or fifth, at this point) day in the sun with the success of Sicario and the Netflix show Narcos; Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Miles joins those ranks, albeit in a much, much more under-the-radar way. It follows Arnulfo (Kristyan Ferrer), a low-level hood who works for his uncle running guns across the border. His dopey Caucasian friend Carson buys the guns from unsuspecting gun shops and Arnulfo takes them across the border for a meagre payback — it’s clear he wants to move up in the ranks and please his uncle, but he lacks the necessary chutzpah. That chutzpah is what he tries to summon when an ATF agent (Tim Roth) approaches him and Carson in the parking lot of the gun store; they disarm him and put him in the trunk of the car, after which Arnulfo has the increasingly less brilliant idea of bringing him to his uncle.

600 Miles burns slow and low, a thriller so subdued it might even pass for experimental in some eyes. Ripstein lets the action play out in long, naturalistic takes that are often comprised of little else than shots of people driving or shopping for guns. It’s a gamble that could sometimes dip into tedium, but thankfully the film is kept spare and lean enough to never lose its momentum. Roth and Ferrer are terrific (though Roth’s American accent is, even after 30 years of intermittent use, still pretty spotty) and while the film never crackles with the kind of electricity you might expect from the subject matter, it’s a probing look into the banality of the lowest rungs of a well-oiled crime machine.

600 Miles screens at the Quartier Latin Cinema (350 Emery) on Thursday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m. and on Oct. 14, 5:15 p.m.

Louder Than Bombs


Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid in Louder Than Bombs

Acclaimed Norwegian director Joachim Trier makes his American debut with Louder Than Bombs, a family drama that explores some familiar territory in a less than familiar way. Gabriel Byrne plays the patriarch of a suburban New York family, an actor-turned-high-school-teacher whose wife (Isabelle Huppert), a well-regarded photojournalist, has died relatively recently in a car crash. Their oldest son (Jesse Eisenberg) is a college professor with a wife and infant daughter who finds it difficult to move on to the next stage of his life. He returns home with the excuse of preparing a retrospective of his mother’s work, where he reconnects with his brother Conrad (Devin Druid), a videogame-obsessed teenager working through his grief in strange ways.

Louder Than Bombs brings films like Ordinary People to mind in its exploration of middle-class malaise, but Trier isn’t content with simply letting us wallow in it. The film has a few tricks up its sleeve: it has a sharp sense of humour, for one, and it’s constructed in a way that lets the viewer connect the dots themselves instead of turning on the waterworks and the grandstanding expositional speeches. It’s a film about grief that actually feels like grief in all of its fucked up, inconsistent glory. The relatively chilly nature of the film is likely to turn many off (it’s not exactly a weepie) but it shows a maturity and command in Trier’s work that’s refreshing.

Louder Than Bombs screens at Quartier Latin Cinema (350 Emery) on Thursday, Oct. 8, 7:15 p.m. and at Concordia’s Hall Building (1455 de Maisonneuve W., H-110) on Saturday, Oct. 10


Buy tickets and see the complete Festival du nouveau cinéma program here.