‘The Father’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Father written and directed by Florian Zeller dives into the mind of an elderly man suffering with dementia. Anne (Olivia Colman) takes care of her father Anthony (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and begins to notice that he is slipping further away into this illness. She doesn’t know how to care for him properly, so she must find a way to make him as comfortable as possible and help him adapt to his surroundings. Zeller’s script would be interesting to read. After all, it is his play that he adapted to screen and I’m sure it is executed differently onstage. Even though the performances were absolutely brilliant, there was something that was lacking.

There were very strong moments between Coleman and Hopkins, very natural, emotional moments that candidly presented the illness. However, due to the execution of this script and the editing of the film, those moments got lost in the execution of the film. Of course, I can appreciate and understand what Zeller was attempting to do. He showed Anthony switch in-and-out of consciousness throughout the film but unfortunately, it hurt the narrative and the emotional connection to these characters. The film is more of a character piece than a clear narrative and that is completely fine but it doesn’t work as a film.

I truly would have loved to see this onstage because it would have had minimal production value and maybe even a smaller cast. It wouldn’t rely on the visual storytelling in regards to Anthony’s internalized mental struggle. The editing and the production design did work for the story Zeller was trying to tell and I commend him for trying something different. As we see Anthony fall into the depths of this illness, his surroundings begin to change; the flat that he lives in is slowly stripped away to reveal where he is actually living, in a care facility. It is a very interesting watch because of those elements, I just wish I could have connected to these characters a bit more.

The Father had incredible performances, especially from Sir Anthony Hopkins but the execution was flawed. The final scene of this film, where he attempted to explain what he was going through, was what should have been explored a bit more throughout. It felt like the conversations with his daughter Anne, took hold of his own emotional suffering and it would have been more effective to show that as well. That final scene brought me to tears and it is some of Hopkins’ best work as an actor. As someone who has seen what this illness can do firsthand, it did accurately show what happens to everyone involved in an interesting way and I respect what was done.

Canadian Film Festival Selection ‘Woman In Car’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Woman In Car is written and directed by Vanya Rose. It is an in-depth look at the psychology of past mistakes and how it can affect the future. It takes the female experience of Ann Lewis (Hélène Joy) as she is in the middle of getting married to her new husband. The script is well-written and Rose peels back the many layers of Ann. There are so many things to unpack in this story and Ann’s experience as a woman is really interesting to dive into. It is so intriguing to watch because Joy gives such a nuanced performance and carries the entire film to the very end. Her connections to other characters may be a bit confusing at times but it all pays off in the third act. It is a film that will keep you glued to the screen and will have you questioning what is possibly going to happen.

Ann appears to have it all. But when her stepson returns to Montreal with the beautiful Safiye (Liane Balaban), Ann develops an obsession with the stranger, who she fears could destroy the privileged life she has built. Rose explores two different female characters in a sincere and compassionate way. What starts out as a defensive tact on Ann’s part turns into a very vulnerable olive branch in wanting to tell her story. The film does explore issues of class, family and deception. It is just so fascinating to watch because of Joy’s layered performance. What I found most interesting is the fact that she was an archer and she always had to have a sense of control when shooting the bow and arrow. Oddly enough, that pressure to be perfect ruins Ann’s peace and concentration when craving that form of release, while her secrets build up.

Ann had many secrets that she tried to bottle up but eventually those secrets came back to haunt her. Throughout the film, we see that Ann is losing herself to these skeletons in her closet. She is under so much pressure because of this wedding and her feelings of neglect from her previous marriage seem to creep up on her. We see how everyone can carry their emotional and mental trauma, from one relationship to another, if they feel like they are somehow being treated in the same way. If these issues are not addressed, situations tend to become worse than they already are. Ann is an incredible character because of how she internalizes her pain in order to keep the public persona of being perfect and composed. It is in an obligation in higher social class systems to always appear poised, even if something is bothering you.

The film is multilayered, nuanced and incredibly sophisticated. It is rooted in the culture of Montreal and dives into the social class system by showing how people who aren’t born into it, can become traumatized by their lifestyle. Woman In Car has so much tension and the build up is strong. There are such intimate, emotional moments that will make you really feel for Ann and want to see her come out on top, even though the storyline is a bit risqué. There are so many issues that Rose explores in this film and the most important takeaway is that there is so much compassion between female characters in sharing those vulnerable moments with others.

‘Yes Day’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have all experienced missed opportunities because we didn’t say ‘Yes’. We sometimes look back on our lives and regret dismissing certain opportunities because they didn’t feel right at the time. Depending on how adventurous you are, majority of people say ‘yes’, when they are eager to try something new. In Yes Day, we see Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) fall in love with each other because of their zest for life. At the beginning of their marriage, they went on adventures in the middle of the day, without a care in the world. Then… they had children and entered the world of ‘No‘.

Yes Day shows the shift from being a couple to being parents quite well. Children are a huge responsibility and once you have a child, or three in their case, your time and attention is no longer on the relationship. Allison and Carlos agree to do the ‘Yes Day’ challenge for 24 hours, where they have to say yes to everything. It is a fun concept with really wild moments throughout and the family dynamic worked really well. The Torres family go on their little adventure for the day and end up in situations they never would have imagined.

Courtesy of Matt Kennedy/Netflix Film

It was also great to see how there are different approaches to parenting and we see that when certain decisions are being made. For their children, Katie (Jenna Ortega), Nando (Julian Lerner), Ellie (Everly Carganilla) they all wanted the freedom to do what they want at a very young age. The main conflict of this film is that Katie wanted to go to a music festival, at fourteen with her close friend, without parental supervision. Now, we all know what happens at music festivals and her mom, does not want her to go at all. After a day of saying, ‘yes’ and realizing that her mother, is actually really fun and just wants the best for her kids, Katie ends up doing the mature thing.

Yes Day is a lot of fun, even with some pacing issues, it still has plenty of teachable moments for parents and children. The cast had great chemistry and they all brought something special to the table. The film drops on Netflix, Friday, March 12th and I challenge you to have a ‘Yes Day’ of your own this Friday! Say ‘yes’ to pampering yourself, for taking some time off and more importantly to have one day of fun! It is a light, wholesome film that is definitely needed to loosen everyone up during these crazy times.

Minari Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

For as long as cinema has been around, the theme of achieving the American Dream has always been evident. People come to America, thinking they could lead better lives, until they get there, and find that the system works against their people. What Lee Isaac Chung does in Minari, is show the struggle of one Korean-American family, trying to achieve the American Dream after moving to Missouri. Chung explores what goes into making a home, is it the location or the people you’re with? Both, Monica (Han Ye-ri) and Jacob (Steven Yeun) navigate their new life and explore the meaning of living.

The film begins with a beautiful scenic drive, capturing the beauty and richness of the land. Later showing that Jacob’s family would be living on farmland. The location of the farm was vibrant and showed the wonder of nature. Chung showed the roots of life, while Jacob’s family dealt with financial issues, family illness and an additional family member coming to live with them. The film highlights everyday situations that American families struggle with and Chung counters that with showing the importance of life’s natural resources.

The family dynamic consisting of Jacob, Monica, David (Alan S. Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho) worked really well. They were all great characters who had different connections with each other. We saw that Jacob and David were closer, Chung wanted to develop their connection in a very natural way and succeeded. The star of this film is little David. Alan S. Kim has such a wonderful presence on screen and added so much emotional depth to certain scenes. David has a heart condition that sets the viewer to worry about him during simple, everyday activities. David’s connection with his Korean grandmother, Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) was the highlight of the film. We see how heritage can blend with American traditions and how a younger generations can learn to appreciate it.

Minari is a beautiful film that will keep you interested in their family dynamic with it’s very natural script. As the viewer you are examining the lives of this Korean-American family and learning how they approach living their everyday life. It is rooted in the American Dream but dives into the family structure about conforming to their surroundings. It isn’t until grandma Soonja comes in and changes their perception of what a home truly is. The family structure is challenged by financial and health issues but in the end, they realize there is nothing more important than the love shared between family.

Raya and the Last Dragon Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Raya and the Last Dragon is pure magic. From the second we meet young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and her father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) there is an instant connection to them. The father/daughter storylines always get me emotional and incredibly invested in the story. Raya learned so much from her father, from fighting techniques, to leadership, to uniting people. The story is quite simple, Raya must go on a quest to retrieve five pieces of a whole, in order to unify Kumandra and bring the dragons back. In doing so, Raya meets such fun, wonderful characters along the way, that make the adventure so engaging!

The beauty of Raya and the Last Dragon is South Asian representation. On Raya’s quest, we learn so much about her culture and traditions. The animation was stunning and the score that accompanied the film, especially during action sequences, worked incredibly well. Raya, ventures out to find the last dragon with her sidekick Tuk-Tuk (who is the first cute character we fall in love with) and we get to explore each kingdom with her. Along the way, Raya finds Sisu (Awkwafina), Tong (Benedict Wong), Boun (Izaac Wang) and Little Noi (Thalia Tran). All of these characters have all lost someone dear to them because of the Drunn, which are sinister monsters that threatened their land.

Featuring Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of Raya and Awkwafina as the voice of Sisu, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

As Raya meets these new characters, she has to learn to trust them and that is the message of this story. With the addition of each new character, Raya learns a lot from her new friends and takes the first step in putting her trust in someone else. After losing her father, to the Drunn, she couldn’t trust anyone else in the kingdom and travelled alone. The film has a great message and a lesson to be learned about how to trust again. This entire voice cast did a fantastic job and the animation for their characters was so great! They came together as a family, to help each other through the grieving and they delivered such heartfelt moments.

Raya and the Last Dragon is absolutely delightful and will make you fall in love with all the characters. What impressed me the most about Raya, was the fighting sequences because of how sleek they were. The combination of martial art techniques were used so effectively and added so much to Raya’s character. Many people will appreciate this story and what Walt Disney Animation did with it. They couldn’t have picked a better voice cast to bring this story to life. Awkwafina was such a knockout as Sisu and she should definitely do more animated films!

Raya and the Last Dragon drops on Disney Plus premier access on March 5th!