TIFF Review: Into The Forest
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Into the Forest is the most insane movie I've seen in years, and I read the book. I knew what I was in for. Lainey did not. More on that soon.
Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood are sisters who love each other as much as they love to hate each other. Typical sibling rivalry stuff. Ellen's Nell wants to be a good student while Evan's Eva wants to be the best dancer she can be. They live with their dad (Callum Keith Rennie, who is always great), about an hour away from a town, near Vancouver in a beautiful house with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Their mom (Wendy Crewson) recently passed away.
But what happens when the power goes out and does not come back on for a few hours? What about when the blackout lasts for a whole week? Or six months? Or even longer? How are you going to survive, especially when you forgot to fill up the gas tank the last time you went into town? What are you going to eat when the pantry's dry?
These are all questions posed by the movie, which is Winter's Bone meets Cabin Fever with a dash of Blindness. Just when you think the movie is going full-on horror with dystopia 101 tropes, it becomes a relationship pressure cooker. Could you survive living in a house, with no power, and no music, with your sibling for what could be an endless amount of time, while battling the elements? At one point, Nell's crush (Max Minghella) comes to stay with them, about two months after they lose power. When he stays there for over a week, Eva starts to lose it. She GROWLS at Nell while they brush their teeth together. "How long is he going to stay for? He's eating OUR food."
I can barely survive without Wi-Fi. I even have it at my cottage, three hours away. I have the shakes when I go on my annual canoe trip because I miss my phone so much. I can't imagine being trapped with some loser that a friend was seeing, knowing full well that he was using the "end of days" to seduce them. It's moments like this that are so well articulated in the sisterhood shared between Ellen and Evan in this movie. They shot this film at an interesting time - post-coming out for Ellen and post-split for Evan. The two are friends and were locked up together in a house for weeks... and they still love each other. That's bonding.
If only the film were stronger. Its anti-technology message and epiphany is too over-the-top. It detracts from how perfect and believable Ellen and Evan are as sisters in crisis. They're two of the best actresses of their peer group, but this adaptation doesn't do them or the book justice. All it needed to do was pick a genre. Horror? Suspense? A relationship drama?
Lainey calls this movie her worst nightmare, because, in her words, she's "Asian and doesn't camp." She spent a lot of time in the screening covering her eyes and saying "why am I here?" In my mind, Into the Forest is a wild mess with some misguided story threads, buoyed by the strengths of its leads.
But none of this criticism takes away from Ellen's power as a producer. She really wanted to make this movie, and do so with Evan, and writer-director Patricia Rozema. You could feel her passion on the red carpet premiere for the film. She even got her BFF Alia Shawkat to show up to support it... and Harvey Weinstein. As of this writing (two days ago), the film had yet to find a US distributor. Maybe that will change this week.