Tuesday at FNC

Our screen team reviews four films screening today at FNC – including new films from Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Pedro Almodovar.

Mickey and the Bear

Annabelle Attanasio’s confident debut feature Mickey and the Bear is set in a small town in Montana. Mickey Peck (Camila Morrone) lives with her dad Hank (James Badge Dale), a war veteran struggling with PTSD. Hank depends on his daughter for everything (food, prescription refills, money), and their relationship even borders on the incestuous when Hank drunkenly confuses Mickey for his deceased wife. And, as we learn early on, Hank is drunk most of the time. Mickey, then, is stuck with her violent and troubled father, dreaming of leaving the state to make a life for herself. 

It’s pretty predictable how it all unfolds, so originality isn’t the draw. The dialogue often feels either vague or calculated. A scene in which Hank wins a cherry pie eating contest that leaves his face dripping with blood-red juice is a little on the nose. The film presents all the clichés of small-town life, but few of the idiosyncrasies. The most compelling scenes are of Mickey’s part-time job working for a taxidermist who glues the deceased animal’s skin onto shapes carved out of styrofoam. Morrone — who may be familiar to audiences as the girl who held in a shit for three days in last year’s Never Goin’ Back — does a capable job of carrying the film, yet she doesn’t show enough range within her performance to want to see more. Overall, Mickey and the Bear is a mediocre coming-of-age film, albeit with hints of potential future finesse from Attanasio and Morrone. (Sarah Foulkes)

Mickey and the Bear screens at Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 7:15 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 19, 7:15 p.m.

To the Ends of the Earth

Another year, another film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. This time it’s To the Ends of the Earth, a travelogue of Uzbekistan where a TV host tries to make the most of her work trip but is consistently tripped up by fear. Kurosawa, a celebrated auteur and director of films like Tokyo Sonata and Pulse, is also extremely contentious. His filmography spans several genres and styles with wildly varying results. While some passionate fans seem to worship everything he touches, the reality is that for the average movie-goer, he has a “love it or hate it” output.

To the Ends of the Earth leans heavily on the weaker end of his talents. The film was funded by the tourist agency of Uzbekistan and, to that extent, the film succeeds. As the Japanese show travels the country, taking in the sights and new experiences, it does make you want to explore a country we rarely think about in the western world. Yet the actual narrative is paper-thin and amounts to “slightly xenophobic Japanese woman has to overcome her prejudices to enjoy life.” It feels like a late-’80s after-school special message, one that feels woefully outdated. There are a few great moments; a storyline with a goat is pretty funny, and since the lead actress is a pop-star, there is a mandatory musical sequence. (Justine Smith)

To the Ends of the Earth screens at Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 5 p.m. and at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on Friday, Oct. 18, 8:10 p.m.

White Lie

Social media has made it easier than ever before to lie about who you are and what you do, and yet it’s also easier than ever before to figure out if someone is lying. White Lie presents a fascinating central character in Katie (Kacey Rohl), a university student who has everyone convinced that she’s dying of melanoma. She runs social-media funding campaigns constantly, shaves her head and rouses sympathy everywhere she goes, but as she starts coming up against roadblocks (the absence of medical records, for one), Katie decides to double-down on her “disease” and the manipulation necessary to keep it going.

White Lie offers a fascinating insight into the psychology of lying. Katie has plenty going for her outside of the disease, and it seems that whatever benefits the lie give her (money, sympathy) are far outweighed by the constant stress and pressure of keeping tabs on every aspect of a situation that’s never truly under control. Directors Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas have the film unfold like a queasy thriller, punctuated with anxious stabs of electronic music that constantly shift the amount of sympathy the viewer has for Katie. There are times where she fully melts down over someone not believing one of her lies — and we somehow feel for her even though we know it’s all a crock of shit. Under White Lie’s simple premise and (admittedly) extremely Canadian vibe lies a complex and effective film. (Alex Rose)

White Lie screens at Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6:40 p.m. in and at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on Friday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.

Pain & Glory

Nothing gets a filmmaker out of the weeds quite like a bit of self-flagellation and a couple of long, hard looks at yourself. After a couple of underwhelming attempts at recapturing his glory days in both drama (Julieta) and comedy (I’m So Excited!), Pedro Almodòvar turns in his 8 ½ or All That Jazz — a nostalgic, sometimes brutally honest look at a life spent making films. Antonio Banderas stars as Salvador Mallo, a celebrated Spanish filmmaker who has practically been forced into retirement by chronic pain issues. Essentially reduced to being a hermit, Mallo is thrust back into the spotlight when one of his ’80s works is re-released. This forces him back into contact with the film’s lead actor (Asier Etxeandia), with whom he had a falling out while making the film.

It would be tempting to say that Almodóvar falls back on all his old tricks — and, in fact, his worst movies tend to be the ones where his signature moves are deployed with the cynicism of routine — but Pain and Glory is a rather skillful synthesis of not only his thematic bugaboos (homosexuality, his mother, the intrinsic seductive nature of art) but also his style. Almodóvar is perhaps less hard on himself than other filmmakers who have waded into similar waters, but he finds a compelling way of reflecting on his own body of work without solipsism or self-pity. It’s purposefully slack and devoid of the grander flourishes of melodrama that categorize his later work, which makes it one of the more heartfelt old-man auteur movies in recent memory. (AR)

Pain & Glory screens at Cinéma Impérial (1430 de Bleury) on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6:15 p.m. and again at Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Thursday, Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m.