By Nick Maylor
Paul Dano shows the patience, confidence and wisdom of an older, more experienced filmmaker for his directorial debut. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Ford first published in 1990 and the script was adapted by Dano himself and Zoe Kazan. When explaining why he chose the book, Dano said, “in Richard’s book I saw myself and many others. I have always wanted to make films—and have always known I would make films about family.”
Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ed Oxenbould star as a family In 1960 as the son Joe (Oxenbould) watches his parents’ marriage fall apart after the three of them move to Montana. Joe’s father Jerry has been fired from his job as a golf pro due to his tendency to become too familiar and friendly with club members and descends into a sedentary and alcohol fused rut after losing his job. He decides to join a group of men who have been called to fight the massive forest fires that have been torching the nearby areas. Joe’s mother Jeanette (Mulligan) struggles to keep the family dynamic together and takes a job teaching swimming lessons after Jerry leaves; something that devastated and infuriated her. She eventually starts a relationship with one of her students, an injured war veteran who is well respected in town and financially well-off.
While no masterpiece, the film is confidently made and features stellar performances from the entire cast (something not unexpected with a first-class actor like Dano behind the camera. Carey Mulligan is absolutely fantastic as Jeanette and steals every scene she appears in. A Best Supporting actor nomination seems like a solid-bet this year. I really cannot say enough about her performance which is so utterly compelling, it elevates itself beyond the already great work that is being done around her. Dano plans to make more films about dysfunctional families and we should keep a keen eye on his future. Bradley Cooper has also made his directorial debut this year with A Star is Born and after John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, this really seems to be a landmark year for actors making directorial debuts.
TIFF is off to a great start. Check out our other reviews and more from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is the current Foote & Friends “expert” on all things geek/superhero/comic-book related. Nick is the host/producer of the official Foote & Friends On Film podcast. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor