LFF 2013: Locarno Round Up

It’s hard to believe that the Locarno Film Festival has already come and gone. There’s a very homey atmosphere about this festival, which takes place in the Italian region of Switzerland; it’s a small area that becomes familiar almost instantly. From watching blockbuster films in the Piazza Grande to hiding out in the press screening theatre, there have definitely been some memorable experiences at Locarno this year. I saw a wide variety of films, from documentaries to comedies to experimental works. No matter how much I loved or hated the film on the screen, it can’t be denied that Locarno is a special film festival, bringing the most seasoned of cinephiles together. From worst to best, I’m going to break down the films that I saw at this year’s festival.




This experimental piece from directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani pushed nearly half of the audience out of the theatre by the thirty minute mark. The film is about a man whose wife has gone missing, but the film is a visual and auditory nightmare. Knives piercing through skin, women being tortured, strobe lights and alarm sounds, and no shot that lasts more than a few seconds. Yes, it may be an art house film, but it is one that tests your senses and challenges you to make it to the end. It’s not the most comforting experience at the movies.


Michael Caine as a widower with no more zest for life; it’s a shame that the film also lacks any sort of spark. The story is predictable and overdone: old man falls for young girl, young girl falls for old man’s son, etc. Even the colour of the film is lifeless, and this piece may be the first movie I’ve ever seen that makes a city as beautiful as Paris look bland. This one is a snoozefest.


This historical piece does not know what it wants to be. It plays with the idea of being a quirky horror film, and it could have been amazing if it stayed with this form. However, it’s a tonal disaster that is boring and fails to keep the viewer intrigued. It does benefit from some good technical aspects, an awesome score, and a strong leading performance from Camille Rutherford. Too bad those aspects are not enough to save the film.




A time-travel romantic comedy from Love Actually director Richard Curtis sounds like it could be a good formula. However, this film suffers from a lack of plot. The premise, a man who can travel back to any specific moment in his life to re-do things, could have made for some interesting moral conflicts. Instead, almost nothing goes wrong in this film. It’s too easy. The film has some laughs and is a worthy watch, but it’s something to be saved for a Saturday night on The Women’s Network.


Here is another film that really isn’t about anything. A couple who are selling their house, each of them artists in their own right, makes for a film that is very picturesque and geometrically pleasing. The direction is exquisite, but that is literally the only good thing that can be said about this film. It’s slow, tedious, and apart from a couple of decent moments it’s rather boring. The performances are strong but there is very little to them.


A man who discovers that he has a son he never knew about; this is a plot we have seen time and time again. With an annoying lead character and unpleasant supporting roles, the film is the definition of meh. It’s decent enough to keep you engaged and has a couple of funny lines, but overall it’s time that you could spend better elsewhere.




This is not your typical revenge flick. Visually stunning, gory while still being subtle, Blue Ruin redefines its genre. It has good performances all around, but for a film that is about killing; it’s very quiet. It’s nothing outstanding, but it’s an interesting time. Not as good as the likes of Drive, which is similarly quietly violent, but a good effort.


The plot of this film is reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation. About a director making a film within the film, the process of the filmmaking and his affair with the actress, When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism keeps the viewer engaged with its quirky plot devices and witty dialogue. It has very few scenes, all of them very long and creating a realistic atmosphere. It’s not a film for everyone, but it is clever and has strong performances.


The director of Dodgeball is back with his first comedy in nearly 10 years, and it delivers the laughs. I may be a sucker for mindless humour, but with performances as strong as the ones in this film from Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter, the film achieves the silly jokes with big laugh-out-loud moments.


This film is admittedly as trashy as it can get, but I still found myself laughing enough to call it a decent output. Director Quentin Dupieux, known in the cult world for such classics as Rubber, brings together his usual cast for some absurdly awful fun. The performances are gutless, and that’s what makes it so awfully watchable. 


Two handicapped 20-somethings fall in love, but everyone seems set on keeping them apart. The not-so-typical love story told in Gabrielle is a deeper insight into disability and the taboos that come with it. With beautiful performances and fun musical scenes, Gabrielle is worth the watch. Winning the audience award at Locarno this year, it sure is a crowd-pleaser.




A beautiful stream-of-conscious documentary about a man’s year on a new drug treating Hepatitis C, E Agora is a deeply profound, philosophical look at a man’s battle with disease. The film is extremely long, slow, and even a bit self-indulgent, but it has sparks of genius and redefines the ways in which we look at sickness.


There have been plenty of films that discuss music but none so specifically as Harmony by director Blaise Harrison. The documentary examines the specific, magical moment that music creates. As a former music student, I was overcome with emotion watching this film that reminds one how amazing being part of the musical instant is.


Controversy? I’m there. This film is bound to be attacked for its extreme perversion, which is apparently tame compared to its source material, the novel by Charlotte Roche. With a fearless leading performance by Carla Juri, vibrant colours, and a deeper message than may initially appear, Wetlands is one you have to see to believe.


A quirky relationship drama where everyone is flawed, Tonnerre is an engaging portrait of the desperations we have for love. All of the performances are great and there is beautiful cinematography, but this film wins for its twisty plot.




Old romance has never been so fun or so real. With outstanding performances from Paulina Garcia and Sergio Hernandez, witty dialogue, and a rarely told story of two older people dealing with the struggles of new romance, Gloria is a must-see. It also has great music and one of the best ending scenes this year.


An autistic man who is looking for love drives this road-trip story. The film is a documentary but it’s told in a narrative style. This film simultaneously broke my heart and made me hopeful for the world. Enea’s story is one that is often ignored, and this film tells it with equal doses of humour and sentimentality.


Ambitious is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Matt Johnson’s The Dirties. The film has a mockumentary style that keeps you guessing and most importantly keeps you entertained. It has naturalistic performances from Matt himself and Owen Williams, a controversial story that questions your morality, and some of the best movie homages ever seen in film. The Dirties is one that will definitely spark conversations long after the film is over.


Here it is, the best film that I saw at Locarno this year. Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 is an emotionally charged masterpiece. It’s got brilliant direction, wonderful performances from everyone, especially from its leading lady Brie Larson, and it’s a film that truly affects you. The film got the craziest standing ovation I’ve ever seen, which was enough to move anyone to tears. Do not miss Short Term 12; it’s a gem.


That’s all from Locarno from me for this year. No matter how good or bad a film was, each was its own incredible experience, and isn’t that the joy of going to the movies? Whether you’re laughing uncontrollably, rolling your eyes, looking away from the disturbing images on the screen, or whatever other reactions you may have, watching films with amazing friends and fellow movie buffs is half the fun. Locarno has been a crazy ride; until next year!