TIFF 2021: Encounter, Earwig, Inexorable | Festivals & Awards

In an unidentified place and time, a man named Albert (Paul Hilton) cares for a 10-year-old girl with ice for teeth. Yes, ice for teeth. Several times a day, he replaces her dentures which consist of teeth made of ice formed by her own saliva. Someone calls wanting to know about her well-being. One day, he’s told to leave his daily routine and a journey begins that will incorporate characters played by Romola Garai and Alex Lawther, and I could tell you very little about what it all means.

Well, sort of. There are clearly themes of control and toxic masculinity in this slowly drifting dreamscape, but none of it has any life. It meanders when it needs to feel threatening or vibrant. It drifts when it needs to hum. I admired the ambition of it, and yet never once cared about a single that happened in it. It has all the pulse of a long nap. 

A far more traditional story unfolds in Fabrice du Welz’s divisive “Inexorable,” a film with a recognizable structure that holds it back from distinguishing it from a crowded festival. There are elements here that work, including some taut direction by du Welz and engaging performances, but it’s hard to shake the sense that it doesn’t add up to anything at all.

Marcel Bellmer (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a world-famous novelist whose most popular book is titled Inexorable. Of course, the fact that the word means “impossible to stop” should give you some idea that Marcel is in for a world of pain. Although it comes in the form of an intriguing young woman named Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) who travels to the country manor that Marcel shares with his wife (Mélanie Doutey) and child, working her way into their life, befriending their young daughter. As Gloria reveals her deep fandom for Marcel’s work, one should ask if he’s ever heard of a book called Misery.

Of course, there’s a hidden connection between Marcel and Gloria that fuels her fandom, and I’ll admit to being engaged by the unfolding tension of the final half-hour of this slow burn, but to also really not caring what happened to a soul in the film. And the filmmaking doesn’t overcome that detached, apathetic thriller approach that sometimes feels cruel. The idea that intellectuals who seem to have it all can have barely-hidden skeletons in their closet that can surface with a vengeance isn’t new, of course, and it can be entertaining when it’s done well. “Inexorable” just isn’t memorable enough to justify the sense that you’ve read this book before.

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