Despite the opening night gala keeping me out until 2am, I managed to cram in a few hours of being a productive member of society this morning. After slipping away from work a bit early, I started the second day of the fest with a “double” dose of Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, since “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” is really two movies in one. Writer-director Ned Benson originally debuted two companion films, subtitled “Her” and “Him,” at Sundance in 2013. Now, the 122-minute cut of both stories woven together is making the festival circuit.
For those curious about the outcome of this experiment, I can confirm that it is definitive proof that one plus one never equals one. After a calculatedly jarring and effective opening sequence, the film meanders through two narratives that only feel truly effective when they cross paths. It could be that Benson intended this effect, but it left me feeling like the film was more lost than its characters. Chastain and McAvoy are superb, however, and I’m looking forward to giving the shorter, separate cuts a fair chance when they become available.
Up next was “Code Kids,” an Atlantic Canadian documentary of particular interest to me as a software developer. In a tidy 45 minutes, it capably outlines a problem and possible solution for the economy in the Maritimes. Unemployment in the Atlantic provinces is as high as 17% in some regions, which is contributing to a mass exodus of young professionals away from the east coast. Pointing to the fact that there will be 106,000 unfilled jobs in the Canadian tech industry by 2016, director Greg Hemmings makes the astute argument that we should be teaching kids computer programming as early as possible. To find more information or to stream the documentary online, visit codekids.ca.
If the tech community is underpopulated in Halifax, it stands in stark contrast to the vibrant artistic community. Andrea Dorfman’s “Heartbeat” is a testament to that fact, fusing music, animation, and filmmaking into a charming little package. In her introduction for the film, Dorfman thanked Halifax – which is gorgeously shot in “Heartbeat” – for being such an incredible place to make movies. Addressing three sold out theatres (the entire festival is spread across only five), she went on to call lead actress Tanya Davis her muse. Considering that she starred in the film in addition to providing the soundtrack and poetry to accompany the animation, it’s not hard to see why.
I capped off the day by leaving the east coast behind for the grungy, neon Los Angeles of “Nightcrawler”. The buzz surrounding this one is all Gyllenhaal, and his performance backs up every ounce of it as he capital-O Oozes disarming, manic energy. The dark, scathing script by Dan Gilroy, who also directed, is worthy of sharing that praise, as is the cinematography by Robert Elswit, who manages to make the gory underbelly of the city feel simultaneously dim and harsh.
Also screening were the Walter Mitty-esque Simon Pegg vehicle “Hector and the Search for Happiness” and the psychosexual horror film “It Follows.” Reactions from the floor were positive, with people commenting in particular on the excellence of the 80s-inspired “It Follows” soundtrack.Return to AFF 2014 Daily Coverage