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By Anne Brodie

Sweetland is the second film in a couple of weeks about the devastation that fell on Newfoundland and Labrador’s cod fishers’ industry when corporate trawlers emptied the waters locals had survived upon for hundreds of years. It focuses on a small, tight island community offered large government cash payouts to move to the big island. All must accept the offer or it will be withdrawn. Two elderly men refuse to go; Moses Sweetland (kudos to Mark Lewis Jones) gives no reason, but locals know he’s attached to the place of his ancestors, the burial place of his wife and son, where he will live out his life. “Stay with the dead. A body could do worse”. Exquisite scenes as he lies on grassy hillsides looking out at the sea, in the sun, air, and wind tell us another reason. He shares it with his best friend, a little boy, who also wants to stay put.  The other holdout gives in and signs off, but Sweetland digs in his heels, keeping hostage islanders who want new lives with all that money, off the island. They turn on him and in the midst of it, the boy drowns. A local farmer’s cow is in agony because there isn’t enough grass and no hay for feeding, a symbol of a dying lifestyle, and community. A mob burns down his shed but he’s not bowed. I’ll leave it there and say the film is extraordinarily poetic, and deeply local, so much so that we must learn its ways, adjust to the heavy accents and the views on life, and its history, so different from ours. It feels foreign, this tiny place on the roaring Atlantic; its an immensely profound character study, set within a darkened palette, mostly silent, it tries our patience but also strikes deep emotions. Mary Walsh has a wonderful cameo. Christian Sparkes who directed The King Tide, adapted Michael Crummey’s novel for this. In theatres May 17 in Toronto and Vancouver.

Just caught up with the Netflix’ mini-series Treason, set in the highest echelons of the British government and glad I did. Big fan of espionage thrillers. Sir Martin Angelis, played by powerhouse Ciarán Hinds, head of MI6, the national intelligence agency is having a quiet time in a restaurant, when a woman in the kitchen slips a liquid into his drink. He’s poisoned and nearly dies. This puts young career agent Adam Lawrence (Chris Cox) into the top job permanently despite his lack of experience.  Angelis ignored a sign something was amiss when the woman served him his drink but to his peril, did nothing. She is Kara (Olga Kurylenko) a Russian / British double agent with whom Lawrence had an affair some years before. He and his wife, former soldier Maddy (Oona Chaplin – one of those Chaplins), and their children are delighted by his once-in-a-lifetime promotion.  But Lawrence runs into Kara; little does he know she will rock his world in the worst possible way.  But for now, as MI6 head must secure the country for fear of another attack; a huge undertaking that tests everything he’s got. Kara reveals she pulled the strings to get him the gig and now demands his help in providing her with intel.  Unknown to him, she’s fed him vital secrets via third parties that compromise his position and the country and give her the power.  Maddy understands he’s in a bad spot and tries to reassure him but before long, things blow up and they run from London for safety. A remarkable behind-the-scenes line up – Matt Charman, the Oscar-nominated writer Matt Charman who wrote Bridge of Spies, and Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance sharing directing duties. Tight plotting, characters fighting for countries, and astonishing plot twists. Some situations seem outrageous and unreal but hey, we’re not spies.

Simon Baker goes dark in Limbo, an Australian outback tone poem saturated with suspense and black and white sunbaked oppression. The mystery / character study follows Travis Hurley, a narcotics detective assigned to an isolated Aboriginal town so perfectly named Limbo. It’s blazing white-hot sun, interesting for a noir piece, is everpresent as Hurley moves through attempting to solve a twenty-year-old cold case, the disappearance of Charlotte, a local woman. Among his findings, white police back then worked from racism and hate, and got physical with the locals, with torture. Understandably, Hurley isn’t welcome.  But he develops bonds with family members particularly the missing woman’s sister Emma (Natasha Wanganeen in a breathtaking performance). He chips away at impervious local reluctance to speak out and doesn’t get far; the best he can gather is that Charlotte was seen at sunset walking down the main dirt road carrying bread and milk.  Hurley’s a heroin addict, a habit he developed on the job, and he’s completely alone and throws himself into his investigation and becomes close with Emma. One of Charlotte’s paintings hangs in Emma’s home.  Hurley’s journey leads him to enormous rock caverns where people live, to unique characters carved out of the blasted wilderness undder a veil of constant threat. Ivan Sen’s sometimes hallucinatory piece edges into poetry, visions, and sleep as a unique and intriguing entry into the noir genre.  TVOD May 21

I have a new prime-time TV series fave which has nearly finished its season but is easily found on Stack TV and upcoming summer repeats on Global. Carrie Preston stars as Elsbeth Tascioni in Elsbeth, a brightly-colored, upbeat, and mood-lifting murder mystery – not an oxymoron. She’s a Chicago attorney assigned to the NYPD to observe and report on possible corruption in the upper ranks. Always loaded down with neon-colored tote bags and clad in a neon adjacent wardrobe, she stands out. Her perky personality does not prepare folks for her keen forensic and human psychology skills, bt her perk irritates some folks. It was irritating at first but these traits became part of her charm. She’s able to connect with suspects, and witnesses more effectively than the police she’s investigating and she tends to stick around murder cases where she is often not wanted. She lets none of this bring her down and soon becomes a star “detective” and begrudgingly accepted. The always terrific Wendell Pierce is the Police Chief who eventually adjusts to her; adjust he must because he’s the main focus of her stated purpose. Each week’s mystery is clever, and unusual, hits timely cultural moments, and showcases Preston’s terrific comedic skills and New York, New York.

Downton Abbey is back, baby. Production is underway on the 3rd film post-TV, with returning stars Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Robert James-Collier, Joanne Froggatt, Allen Leech, Penelope Wilton, Lesley Nicol, Michael Fox, Raquel Cassidy, Brendan Coyle, Kevin Doyle, Harry Hadden-Paton, Sophie McShera, Douglas Reith with Joely Richardson, Alessandro Nivola, Simon Russell Beale, Arty Froushan, and more! Paul Giamatti’s in as Cora Grantham’s brother Harold Levinson and Dominic West as Guy Dexter from Downton Abbey: A New Era.




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