Another big one for The Rock, Jon Hamm’s dip into Middle Eastern strife and drama in and after residential schools
Saul Indian Horse is played by different actors in three stages of his life. Sladen Peltier, when he’s young and his grandmother tries to keep him from being taken to a residential school; Forrest Goodluck when he does live there under strict discipline by the nuns and Ajuawak Kapashesit when he’s older and a promising hockey player thanks to a friendly priest. There’s no escape though; subtle or outright racism follow him and the trauma of his school experience returns. It’s good that we’re facing up to this. The film, written by Dennis Foon and efficiently directed by Stephen Campanelli (both Vancouver locals), has a favorite at several film festivals. It is effective but a little too relentless. (5th Avenue, International Village, suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
WALK WITH ME: Slow down, take some time and watch this feature on life at a famous Buddhist retreat. You’ll really feel what it must be like to stay there. No personal possessions. No money. No sex. Monks talking about focussing entirely and only on the here and now. A bell ringing every 15 minutes to remind you to change what you’re doing. Maybe joining in singing “I don’t need to hurry”. That’s all here in this film by Marc J. Francis by Max Pugh with occasional voice over sentiments by Benedict Cumberbatch reading lines like this from the founder’s journals: “To live we must perish again and again. We must die in the storm that makes life possible.”
The words are from Thich Nhat Hanh, founder of Plum Village in the south of France. He’s seen but hardly heard in the film though many others speak his teachings. We learn a lot about them but not much about him or the people who come to him. He helped bring about the current popularity of that form of Zen Buddhism called mindfulness. In Viet Nam he was an anti-war activist and convinced Martin Luther King to speak out against the Viet Nam war. MLK nominated him for a Nobel Peace prize but none was awarded that year. Other films probably covered his story. This one shows his work, including brief scenes from a US tour and a couple of emotional scenes of two acolytes visiting relatives there. It’s informative but you’ll have to be patient with the relaxed pace. (VanCity Theatre, starting Sunday. The first show includes a panel discussion on mindfulness and Buddhism.) 3 ½ out of 5
FINDING YOUR FEET: Here’s another of those comedies about old age that only old people will enjoy. They’ll recognize the many problems that seniors have to endure. So many are detailed that it feels at times that it’s been taken from a manual for daily life. Unfortunately it doesn’t go beyond that to say anything original or deep about aging and living well as you do. It relies on the platitude: it’s never too late. And then does only a sappy and sentimental job with it. The actors are very good though, and almost make this material come alive.
Imelda Staunton plays a gentry wife who wakes up out of the comfortable life she has lived when she finds her husband kissing another woman at a party at their own house. (How unbelievably reckless is he?) He’s been having an affair for years. Imelda runs off to London to her pot-smoking, free spirit sister (Celia Imrie) and gets involved in a seniors’ dance class, with a wisecracking member (Joanna Lumley) who organizes a fund-raising dance recital, and a handy-man (Timothy Spall) who she tries to rebuff but is repeatedly joined with. Unbelievably, the dancing seniors go viral on the internet and are invited to a show in Rome. There’s a lot of comedy along the way, some good, some weak, and a few nods to be big questions like illness and death. Mostly though it feels like a troupe of old people putting on a show. (Fifth Avenue and a couple of suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
BORG VS McENROE: For most of its way this is a perfectly OK but quite ordinary sports movie. Informative but standard. Then it gets to that final game and you’ll be rapt. That’s assuming you don’t know how it turns out. I didn’t, although in the world of tennis it is legendary, one of the greatest ever played. It’s the Wimbledon men’s final of 1980. A super-star who had already won it four times was up against a younger, upstart, not to mention bad-boy, challenger.
Bjorn Borg, the Swede, played by look-alike Sverrir Gudnason, was cool and emotionless but scared on the inside. John McEnroe, the American (played by Shia LaBeouf, and just as fast with the foul language) was volatile and arrogant. The film flashes to their backstories a number of times to show what made them so. The film is from Sweden so naturally we get less about McEnroe and more about Borg, much of it about his failing confidence. Stellan Skarsgård plays a steadying role as a mentor who can challenge when needed. And then the game, beautifully shot, tense and close to thrilling. (Park Theatre) 3 out of 5
Two other films now playing:
TRUTH OR DARE is the latest horror film from Blumhouse. Creepy I’m sure.
SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO is an animated film for children about a dog in World War I. His life is commemorated in the Smithsonian Institution and in this multi-nation, including Canada, film. Helena Bonham Carter and Gérard Depardieu are in the voice cast.