TOTO Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Toto is a very inventive and sweet short film showing how dependant we have all become on technology. It is also quite humorous because the lead is 90 year – old, nonna Rosa (Rosa Forlano) who is having difficulty, adjusting to a robot being in her house. Toto is an ode to real life situations and how people can’t seem to function without technology. It brings together the older generation and the new generation in order to understand the complexities of technology.

Toto definitely hits close to home because I am seen as the “fix it, IT person” in the house. The film doesn’t only apply to seniors, but it also applies to middle aged people who never grew up with technology. All the Gen X and Millennials can understand how frustrating it can be to actually explain how to use technology to others, when it has become second nature to us. It was heartwarming and fun to see Nonna Rosa, who is also the grandmother of the director Marco Baldonado, interact with the robot.

It is a very simple story and shows a full day of a nonna adapting to living with a robot, that is programmed to help her. Toto is very similar in nature to Baymax, from Big Hero 6 but functions differently. The entire climax of Toto is the issue of charging its battery in order for it to help the nonna. That’s where the humour comes in because everyone knows an Italian nonna will always take matters into her own hands, when things go wrong.

The construction for Toto is well done and the robot is quite massive. It used lights and a “siri” like voice to attend to the nonna. Toto was trained to cook and clean, in order to help the nonna, but let’s face it robots can’t be compared to the will power of a nonna. It shows an important lesson of learning about technology but also still trying to do things on your own. When technology fails so many of us, we have to be able to work through situations on our own.

Tigertail Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Alan Yang’s directorial debut Tigertail is a story about generational values and decision making. He tells the story about a Taiwanese factory worker, Grover (Hong Chi Li/Tzi Ma), who leaves his homeland to seek opportunity in America. We watch his story unfold, as he reflects on his life and how ended up in his current position. Yang wrote a very moving and introspective script, which captured each generation perfectly and how certain decision cause a ripple effect on the future generations.

The story flowed nicely from scene to scene and the editing was utilized in a way, that made the flashbacks seem more present in his mind rather than using a different colour grading to show the shift in time. As the story unfolds and we get to know more about Grover, we begin to understand how his decisions changed him as a person and how that affected his relationship with his daughter Angela (Christine Ko). Grover came from a small town in Taiwan and wanted to help his mother get out of the factory. As a child, the one thing you want to be able to do, is help your parents because they also struggled to give you as much as they could.

Tigertail delivers on all fronts and examines classicism and social status throughout generations all while telling a heartbreaking love story. Yang showed Grover (Hong Chi) develop a relationship with his childhood friend Yuan (Yo – Hsing Fang/Joan Chen) and openly discussed their financial differences. Yuan and Grover were young, reckless and in love. Their connection and chemistry was natural and you could feel that they were meant to be with each other. Yang then showed Grover’s ambition and love for his mother, by giving him an opportunity to move to America with another woman, Zhenzhen (Kunjue Li/Fiona Fu).

This major life decision stayed with Grover for the rest of his life and altered him as a man. Tzi Ma gave an incredible introspective performance and Grover’s loneliness was felt throughout the film. He became an entirely different person because he had to start from scratch, in a new country and work double to make a living for his wife and family. As time went on, Grover became more stubborn, stern and didn’t have the same carefree nature as before. Yes, people get older and their priorities change but their spirit should be able to remain the same, IF they make the right decisions in their lives.

Grover cared about financial stability and passed that down to his daughter Angela, while she was contemplating marrying her boyfriend Eric. Angela worker hard her entire life and throws herself into her work, much like her father. I valued Angela and Grover’s, father/daughter relationship because of how similar they were, without them realizing it. Those moments shared between them and finally coming to terms with how their lives went and the parallels was so intriguing in this film. The direction from Yang really brought their individuality together and had them share such intimate moments after all these years.

As I watched Tigertail I questioned if love was truly enough, if love CAN conquer everything and anything? How do we know we’ve made the right decision when choosing a partner? Have I chosen this person because I do love them or is it out of convenience? Do I love them or the image of them? Am I in love with THEM or the idea of a relationship? These are the questions that I have always thought about and Tigertail made me understand life and relationships a bit more.

The one thing Yang so expertly shows is the evolution of love through generations, while still keeping the same core value intact. Yes love can conquer anything, if you’re with the right person and there’s a balance, that’s a chance everyone has to take. However, financial stability and personality traits, that don’t seem like an issue early on, can definitely affect the relationship in the future. Love is a gamble and I think this generation doesn’t think of the future and how one decision can affect their entire life. My grandparents, much like Grover, never really had a choice in who they loved, they just knew they had to make a living and evolve trying to make a better life for themselves.

Tigertail is possibly one of Netflix’s best original films because of how much it covers in such a short period of time. Alan Yang takes you on a very realistic journey that will leave you heartbroken but hopeful at the end of the film. It is a multi-generational drama that will pull at your heartstrings and will leave you with a new appreciation, for prior generations, who built the foundation for all of us to walk on. Without their sacrifices, none of us would be where we are today and Yang covers it beautifully.

The Way Back Review

The Way Back is more than your average sports film. Yes, it feels all too familiar but what really makes it stand out, is the integration of Coach Cunningham’s backstory and how it affected his outlook when coaching.

Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) used to play basketball in high school. He was the all star player and was at the top of his game. After a series of poor decisions, that were made to spite his own father, Jack ended up being in a spot he never thought he’d be in. It’s true when people say that the child pays, for the sins of the father. It’s a vicious cycle and it takes one small change, to break the cycle.

Gavin O’Connor is a fantastic director and I really enjoy his style. The Way Back felt like a tight knit sports drama, while the observational style in the camerawork, felt like I was watching a documentary. The story was incredibly realistic and that’s why it pulled on the heartstrings. More importantly, O’Connor always manages to slowly peel back the layers of his characters, making the story progression more impactful. It’s a slow burn but it’s definitely effective.

Jack Cunningham is a very strong character. He’s subdued, most of his fighting is internal and his love of basketball makes him regain control of his life. This is also Ben Affleck’s best performance to date. It could be because the subject matter is close to him, so he could relate to Cunningham a bit more, but nonetheless, it’s incredibly moving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play such a vulnerable character. It’s heartbreaking to watch because of how personal this film is to him. Affleck and O’Connor work very well together and this is their best collaboration yet.

Cunningham’s backstory, is more complex than the trailers lead on. As the story unfolds, his demons creep out and his past continues to haunt him because he represses his pain. Once he becomes a Coach and he’s around teenagers, with the same love for basketball, that he once had, he begins to reflect on his life. It’s an internal performance from Affleck but when he’s on the court with his team, that’s when the magic happens and I couldn’t have been happier to see him like that.

Affleck is the driving force of this film and it’s such a great sports film. The whole team was great and each of them had strong backstories. It’s all about being a role model to these kids and Cunningham did that without trying to be one. Sometimes you may feel small and think that your presence doesn’t affect anyone because that’s the darkness of doubt overpowering your mind. You may not think here are people who love and appreciate your existence, but there are.

It’s strong subject matter of alcoholism was executed quite well throughout. The way O’Connor showed the abuse of alcohol was unsettling but effective. No one had to say a word, but seeing any drink in Cunningham’s hand made me sad. It’s difficult to sit through because of how well they showed the alcoholism. Majority of the time the alcoholism is discussed but never shown and that’s why The Way Back is so well done.

I’m incredibly proud of Ben Affleck and how he chose this film to be a catharsis for his own suffering. The Way Back is one of his best, if not his BEST performance and he should be recognized for this. It’s hard to be vocal about your own pain and suffering and it’s a big step to openly discuss it with the world.