Awesome Friday: 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival Roundup

For the fourth time I went to the Vancouver International Film Festival. This year I saw more than 20 films and here’s a selection of them.

White Lie

The problem with telling a lie –even a white lie– is that in order to maintain it you have to tell more of them. Each new lie you tell builds on the ones you’ve already told until one day instead of maintaining some small mistruth you’re maintaining an entire narrative that you can barely keep straight.

This is the world of Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl), the university student and dancer at the heart of Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas’s White Lie. With one minor difference: she hasn’t told a little white lie, she’s told the world she’s suffering from cancer.

What lengths would someone have to go to to maintain that lie? How long could you keep your head above water with the lies swirling around you? These are the questions at the heart of this movie.

Link: VIFF Review: ‘White Lie’ is a tense psychological drama

Who You Think I Am

Loneliness is a painful emotion. Whether you’re surrounded by people or not, the feeling that you are truly alone can cause even the most rational people to do all kinds of things. We are, after all, all human and subject to the whims of our emotions.

Enter Juliette Binoche as Claire, a 50ish publisher and professor and divorcée who is making her way unhappily through life. After she is spurned by Ludo –the younger man she has been seeing– when she suggests they spend some real time together she decides she would like to enact some revenge upon him. To that end she creates Clara, a gorgeous 24 year old avatar to bait Ludo with. After several glasses of wine and friend requests she receives a message, but it’s not Ludo she’s hooked, it’s his roommate Alex.

This is where things start to go a little sideways, and also where I am going to do my best to stop speaking about the plot as this one has many twists and turns and I don’t want to spoil any of them.

Link: VIFF Review: ‘Who You Think I Am’, in which Juliette Binoche dazzles

The Realm

The opening scene of The Realm follows Manuel (Antonio de la Torre) from a quiet beach, through a noisy kitchen, and to a table full of friends enjoying wine and seafood. There is laughter and toasting and inside jokes, and a great time being had by all. It’s a joyous scene but these men and women are no mere friends, they are all government officials and their good time comes at the expense of t​he people they have been elected to represent.

This is the world of The Realm, one in which it seems that nearly all government officials are corrupt to some extent and Manuel –our hero– is perhaps the worst of them. He has been living the high life for the last fifteen years off bribes, kickbacks, and graft, but when some of said graft comes to light his political party ousts him.

That’s a hell of a setup for a story but does the movie equal the potential? Yes, it mostly does.

Link: VIFF Review: ‘The Realm’ is a fast-paced​ and satisfying political thriller

The Two Popes

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned there was a ripple of disbelief. None had resigned the papacy in 700 years. There was concern that he was being forced out due to his traditional and hardline stances. That his health was failing, or worse yet his mind.

Enter Jorge Bergoglio, a Cardinal from South America who was concerned with the poor and with reforming the church. Bergoglio had commanded a few votes at the previous papal election and Benedict and he disagreed on almost everything but ultimately it was Bergoglio who would next be elected and made Pope Francis.

The Two Popes retells the story of Bergoglio’s life, as he tells is to Pope Benedict in the year leading up to Benedicts resignation. It’s a charming movie, with more than a few good laughs, and two master thespians playing off one another for nearly two hours. In other words: you should definitely see it.

Link: VIFF Review: The Two Popes is fun and funny


Synonyms begins with the protagonist Yoav (Tom Mercier) breaking into a luxurious but unoccupied apartment looking for a place to sleep for the night. The clothes on his back, the few things in his bag, are all of his worldly possessions. After a night in the austere accommodations, he takes a shower and during that shower, someone steals all of his clothes and his bag.

Frantically he runs, naked and dripping wet down the stairs and after the thief but it’s too late, his things are gone. Rather than chase them into the street he returns to the apartment and passes out in the tub, seemingly to wait for death.

This franticness is at the heart of Yoav’s character. He’s in France feeling his past self with the sole, desperate intention to form a new self. But is that even possible?

Link: VIFF Review: ‘Synonyms’ is maddening, heartbreaking, frustrating, challenging, and contains a performance you definitely shouldn’t miss

White Snake

Animation is a medium. It’s a weird thing to have to actually write down but to many when you say you’re about to watch an animated film they make a number of assumptions but they all basically boil down to the thought that animation is a genre with its own tropes and conventions but that’s not really the case, is it? Animation is a medium through which we often tell children’s stories but it’s actually perhaps the most expressive film medium, and perfectly capable of telling adult stories.

This fact is exemplified by White Snake, an animated epic from China which has a soft, whimsical animation style but also a dark, violent, and occasionally erotic story to tell.

Link: VIFF Review: ‘White Snake’ is an epic, adult, animated adventure/

As with last time I have linked half a dozen review here but in actuality I watched 22 films and review of all of them along with some other commentary can be found if you check out the VIFF 2019 tag at Awesome Friday!.

Also, I am blogging again on a semi-regular basis so if you enjoy my pithy commentary on film and pop culture now would be a good time to start following Awesome Friday again. Also also, if you do like it, considering kicking a few cents toward my Patreon.

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