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Better than Average Independent Feature - TIFF Review by ReelScreenReviews
***This May Contain Spoilers*** A young woman grows as a person while exploring the life's work of her estranged father. Hello there and welcome back once again to ReelScreenReviews & We Live Film's continuing coverage of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, I am movie critic Nick Iacobucci and our next movie review is for "Cinemanovels". This independent drama stars Lauren Lee Smith, Jennifer Beals, Ben Cotton, and Kett Turton. "Cinemanovels" comes to us from writer/director Terry Miles, and this is his second film debut in Toronto in the last few years.
This tale tells of a twenty-something woman named Grace, and when the film opens her father has already passed away. Her dad was one of the well-regarded filmmakers ever to live, and it seems that he died while a festival of his work was being constructed. This gentleman always referred to his fictional movies as 'Cinemanovels', and that is where we get the film's title. Now Grace is doing her best to see this film festival come to life, and Grace is also dealing with family issues as well. She and her husband have been attempting to get pregnant to no result, and maybe she's even falling out of love with her better half. Before this tale comes to a close Grace will make some tough decisions, and will this father that never was around be the missing element that brings some direction to her life.
Well people this film "Cinemanovels" is surprisingly above average, and the story given to us is full of rich and deep characters surrounded in a worthy narrative. There is enough substance to the tale to at least recommend it even though it is anything but a perfect film. The lead actress is Lauren Lee Smith and she delivers a solid performance that in fact does hold the film together. Now her character of Grace has many flaws and imperfections but you without question like and root for her. Her biggest drawback is that Grace knows what she wants, but she won't commit to anything including marital, professional, and personal matters.
Now there were other players on screen and Kett Turton was extremely likable as a young filmmaker named Adam. He is a very down-to-Earth persona and connects with the audience just as he does with Grace. He is using his professional talent to assist Grace in the film festival, but the more he is around Grace the less professional Adam wants their relationship to become. Adam's roommate Charlotte is a very humorous character and I actually could've used more of her in the movie. Then Jennifer Beals from the 80's classic "Flashdance" shows up as a friend of Grace's, and Miss Beals is not only still talented as an actor but she is still very beautiful as well. Rounding out the cast is Ben Cotton as Grace's husband Ben and putting it plain and simple you don't like this guy because Grace really doesn't like him.
Now there are some 'Nick-Picking' issues for the film "Cinemanovels", and I'll begin with the movie's main flaw. This movie sometimes doesn't explain itself when it needs to. Her dad has died and you basically learn about him through other people and his legacy of films and work. You end up drawing your own conclusions about this man, and not always what you deduce will be correct. Then what happens to Grace and her husband isn't told to a reasonable conclusion, and her husband doesn't even know many basic things about his own wife.
Now I will cover what I believe to be the biggest hindering aspect of "Cinemanovels". Within this story a woman is putting together a collaboration of her father's best feature films, and throughout the movie "Cinemanovels" we get flashbacks to scenes from these feature films that her father directed. I actually very much enjoyed this part of the film, and how these scenes mirror Grace's current life situations. However this film is shot entirely with digital cameras and when you do that you end up giving the film a deliberate and certain look. The issue comes when we flashback to her father's body of work because those sections are also shot with digital cameras. Her father was supposed to be this grand impressionist of a movie maker and never would have shot films digitally, but regardless those recollection scenes really should have had a different look and feel to them altogether. Those scenes should have been shot wider and recorded on actual film to convey the difference that was needed, but in the end I know that this is an independent feature and suffers most because of lack of funds. This means the director probably could have and wanted to do just that, but unfortunately he just couldn't afford it.
At right around 1 hours and 40 minutes "Cinemanovels" was not a great movie, but it was anything but a bad movie also. I very much enjoyed how you get to see the lead character grow and change as a prison, which means that it was nothing like "Hateship Loveship". The unanswered questions that this film raised didn't sit all that well with me, but taken on a whole the filmmaker did tell a well-rounded tale. The biggest saving grace for this movie is the surprising reveal during the film's finale. The surprise in this feature is touching, and meaningful, and totally satisfying and without it I wouldn't have recommended this movie. Nick's Reel Screen Review is a mild but still recommended 2 ½ stars out of 4, and that's for the independent drama "Cinemanovels".
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