Canadian Film Festival Selection: ‘Sugar Daddy’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

A young talented musician, named Darren, dreams of making music like nobody has before. But, unfortunately she’s broke and desperate for cash. She signs up to a paid-dating website, throwing herself down a dark path that shapes her music with it. It’s true when they say, ‘art imitates life’ and artists tend to try new experiences for inspiration. They may not realize that this is the reason they gravitate towards the unknown. But it’s the creative mind that overtakes the decision-making. Darren is at a crossroads in her life, she is twenty-five, lost her job and is really trying to make a living as a musician. Any twenty-something can relate to this, but the creatives are the ones who feel her pain the most.

Darren has been trying to find ways to develop as a musician. Her sound is very different and she’s seems to be naive in navigating the industry. She has been trying to live on her own, without any help from her mother and she’s struggling to make ends meet. We see her working as a server for a catering event and she is taken by this woman who she used to know. She was once a caterer just like Darren but now she’s on the arm of an older gentlemen at the event. Darren questioned her friend and was curious about the arrangement. She then does her own research and is intrigued by the entire service. Would you go out on a date with an older man to make ends meet?

Let’s discuss this shall we? A woman is in full control of the situation as an ‘escort’ or in plain terms ‘a friend’ of the older gentlemen suitor. There are guidelines that are set prior to the date and as we see in the film, it is more of a companion than a sexual favour. Darren’s friends discuss the female agency that can be stripped away because of the price being put on her head for a night out. But even though that is what it looks like on the outside, Darren has a wonderful experience with her suitor. He understands her on a creative level, something that many people in her life don’t do. She builds this connection with him that almost feels like a father/daughter relationship… until it wasn’t.

Sugar Daddy directed by Wendy Morgan, takes a musicians creative process to new lengths and shows the connectivity between art and artist. As a creative, there needs to be some support from the people around you in order for you to grow in your field. You can find unlikely partners in your life who don’t even live near you, who will understand you on a different level. From the unique camerawork, to the interesting story and character work from Darren, the film will leave you considering the same career path. It is an in-depth psychological analysis of the scars left from childhood that many people carry into adulthood. This generation tends to focus on how to fix the issues, take accountability for their actions and attempt to move forward with a better understanding of who they are.

The film is available to stream today on VOD/Digital across Canada!

White Lie Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

White Lie co-written and directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas, dive into a character study of undergrad student Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl) who has been faking her cancer diagnosis, in order to pool money for her own benefit. It is a dark film that spirals into the depths of the lies and the consequences that come from it. The most interesting takeaway is that young Katie doesn’t stop herself and sikes herself out, as she continues to tangle this web of deceit.

First and foremost, the lie itself is pretty unsettling to watch unfold, as it snowballs into something so uncontrollable and bigger than Katie. Secondly, Rohl’s complex and nuanced performance makes this character study so intricate. It allows the viewer to feel uncomfortable with her decision, without fully knowing if she is telling the truth because she is so convincing. It is also the persona that she puts on in front of different people such as, her significant other, her father, the doctors and her peers. She used everyone around her for her own advantage as she was telling this lie.

Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing

At first you are definitely turned off by the idea that someone could lie about having cancer in order to fund her own goals. Then you really think about what she did and you question, if she is the only one to think of something likes this. Especially considering the world with live in and the desperation that comes with surviving in this economy. Halfway through the film, you have accepted that she is going through this lie, full force and you are interested in seeing how far she is willing to go. This film is a rollercoaster of emotions because of the many complications Katie faces.

White Lie is an interesting character piece and will have you question if there are people out there who would actually do this. Rohl gave a great performance and she brought forth an entire emotional spectrum when handling the lies. The story structure, camerawork and score all bring this film together to create a character that is so chaotic, which makes this film incredibly thought-provoking until the very end.

Body & Bones Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Body & Bones written and directed by Melanie Oates, tells a tale of a young girl named Tess (Kelly Van der Burg) trying to find some sort of spark in her life again. She has been missing school and has detached herself from her home life completely. She uses music to escape the world and the way she’s feeling. One artist, in particular, named Danny Sharpe (Joel Thomas Hynes) has become her obsession. So what would happen if a young, impressionable, teenage girl met her idol? Melanie Oates explores the brutal truth.

I think many of us have wondered about meeting our idols, or celebrities that we are infatuated with, or even just admire. Oates takes a teenage girl and whisks her into the life of a washed up rockstar. It is a journey that should be seen because teenage girls are often blinded by the persona of someone older. It is always explored as something great and it is often romanticised but this was the total opposite. Oates made sure to show the alcoholism, verbal/emotional abuse and the complete disregard for a woman, once she has been used to her full capacity.

There are some very strong moments, especially from Van der Burg as she explores her sexuality and a very powerful moment in the third act of the film. It truly shows how damaging a relationship can be with someone you think you know. It is the perception of the person, that we tend to put on a pedestal because you are so infatuated with them. People can be blinded by the one they’re aching for and sometimes do questionable things, like moving in with them at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, as Tess did.

Body & Bones does show the extent of a wrong relationship, as Oates carefully builds up tender moments shared between Danny and Tess, only to rip the bandaid off in the end. It has a great soundtrack to accompany the emotional connection Tess has with Danny and some great camerawork. It is a film that takes the ultimate fantasy and shows the brutal reality of it all.

A Fire in the Cold Season Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

A Fire in the Cold Season is co-written and directed by Justin Oakey. It takes place in rural Newfoundland, with beautiful cinematography of it’s open landscapes. The story slowly builds and shocks you, when you least expect it, especially within the first moments of the film. In the secluded forest, a trapper named Scott (Stephen Oates), stumbles upon something suspicious and gets wrapped up in a tangled web, with violent outlaws.

The film is beautifully shot, has a great soundtrack and distinct sound design, which plays to crucial moments in the film. The scenes in the open field, leading into the forest at the beginning of the film, set this dreadful tone for Scott’s journey. Scott is quiet, reserved and genuinely a good person. So when he gets tangled in this web and begins his downward spiral, you feel for him and the outcome.

It is a slow burn and as the story builds, more characters come into play and create so much tension. There were some beautiful shots, unique framing and great lighting throughout the film that impressed me. The technical aspects in this film overshadowed the actual story until the final act. The last half hour of this film had a pretty solid standoff and the execution of those action scenes were well done.

A Fire in the Cold Season is a slow film, that saves all the action for its final act. If you cans stick through the long conversations, deceit and questionable motives then you will be in for a treat at the end. Oakey plays off the subtleties of his characters and the preconceived notion of the mob mentality.