I managed to catch a few movies at the virtual 45th Cleveland International Film Festival, and thought it best to do a little roundup of everything I watched. This acts as a sampling of my thoughts, especially on the films I cannot cover yet in full. I have also linked to films I already viewed from this festival.
BEST SUMMER EVER
COMING HOME IN THE DARK
Creepy and atmospheric, David Charbonier and Justin Powell use minimal dialogue, uncomfortable use of close ups, and a masterful performance from Ezra Dewey to sell this intense horror yarn. The young actor carries every scene on his shoulders, and imbues Dylan with personality and drive that makes the insane climax even more shocking. Be careful what you wish for!
EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (1998)
I didn’t know a gay movie existed in the 90s that was this raw, entertaining, and explicit. That soundtrack was banging, and it’s so cute! The poster is definitely a little misleading. I fell completely in love with Eric / Chris Stafford. Another solid offering from writer Todd Stephens.
(Written by Allison Brown) This was better than expected, with tons of quotable dialogue (“tail is a little dick… dicktail poking out…”) and a mostly-female cast of diverse women. The friendships are sweet, and the vibe of the film is stupid, but funny. Even the title—which means a weak woman otherwise with a powerful arm strength—is playfully poking at the audience. It’s like Netflix’s Glow series, only not as good.
GYPSY 83 (2001)
The juxtaposition of two best friends losing their virginities at the same time, Karen Black camping it up as a faded musician, awkward encounters with redneck hicks, Stevie Nicks obsession, Sara Rue spouting iconic dialogue, the encapsulated beauty of NYC, and an emotional dagger of sorrow in the final act that left me in tears… I love this movie!
LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD
Bookended by two genuinely excellent performances from Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber, Lorelei is a simmering drama from writer/director Sabrina Doyle that examines the way love changes between two people over time. Even when the plot takes turns I wasn’t necessarily on board with, the authenticity and quiet drama (bolstered by Malone & Schrieber’s undeniable chemistry) kept me invested.
MY HEART CAN’T BEAT UNLESS YOU TELL IT TO
This gripping, deceptively sharp film represents strong indie filmmaking and devotion to telling an honest story. The pace is slower, and as such, will instantly not appeal to a certain subset of selective viewers. For those who like their horror gory and wild, they can go elsewhere. For everyone else, a devastating, deeply moving vampire flick is awaiting them.
SOUND OF VIOLENCE
WHEN I’M DONE DYING
WOMEN IS LOSERS
CIFF 45, or the 45th Cleveland International Film Festival, took place from April 7th – April 20th, 2021. I loved doing a double feature of Edge of Seventeen and Gypsy 83, both from Todd Stephens. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is among other award winners at the fest, with that one picking up the New Direction Competition award.