Monday Review TIFF 2020

The Plot

Wildly sexual and romantic sparks fly when two Americans Chloe and Mickey meet in Greece and launch into an unlikely relationship, facing the immediate pressure of her imminently planned departure back to America. Their powerful connection instantly provokes difficult questions about whether or not it’s possible for such a spontaneous encounter to actually lead to a serious future.

The Good

Monday is a sensuous and wildly passionate romantic drama instantly ignited by the bristling chemistry instantly created between the astonishingly gifted talents of Sebastian Stan and Dennis Gough.

Sebastian Stan oozes the most undeniable charisma on screen. Beyond his indisputably chiselled and perfectly handsome good looks there’s a warm truly appealing lustre to his character. It will be hard for audiences to avoid being quickly swept up in his relentless wit and explosive passion. It’s truly rare to see such an authentic display of raw magnetism on screen. He is exactly the type of person that could propel a virtual stranger to abandon their existing life plans in favour of a sun drenched life together.

There’s also a vulnerability and authentically raw quality to his performance that gives the film layers and nuance. The film pushes beyond the initial adrenaline fuelled rush of a new relationship and through the at times difficult process of uncovering flaws and unforeseen problems.

Denise Gough delivers a flawless American accent and makes Chloe a wonderful counterpoint to Sebastian Stan’s Mickey. Despite their obvious chemistry there are clear differences between her maturely composed Lawyer and his free spirited man-child musician. The tensions between their two very different worlds literally explodes when their wildly different social circles collide. It’s a very stark illustration of the unexpected trauma that can follow taking a leap of faith with a new romantic partner.

Beyond the films amazing captivating central pairing a special mention must be given to Yorgos Pirpassopoulos playing Mickey’s flamboyant best friend Argyris. He is a persistently joyous and sincere voice in the film that helps invest audiences even more affectionately in Stan’s character. Likewise the film’s excellent and uplifting soundtrack injects consistent pounding energy into proceedings. It gives the film a pulsating hedonistic quality that embodies the rampant real life abandonment of true unrestrained passion.

Ultimately the complex course of this new couple’s recklessly romantic path is compellingly joyous and whistful in ways which will no doubt linger with an audience long after the film ends. There is a true sexual intensity to their performances rarely captured on screen.

The Bad

Much like life’s real passions and romantic adventures it’s a little shame that this film can’t just maintain its early optimism and joyous abandonment. It would be easy to spend much longer getting to simply enjoy these two characters swimming in their heady uncomplicated lust. It’s perhaps unwelcome when the reality of problems and ugly truths starts to emerge.  It’s painful and imperfect in ways that are tragically honest and self-destructive. It’s a little genuinely disheartening to see the film lurch from sunny escapism to starkly bleak reality.

The film isn’t the simply escapist romantic fantasy its early portions seem to promises it to be. That may give the film more depth and drama but it won’t necessarily be what every audience wants to see.

The Ugly Truth

Monday is a truly compelling unflinching portrait of the course of new romance and passion in its purest form. It’s a headlong dive into the uniquely sex soaked and intense rush of new love and the grounding at times painful aftermath. Two astonishing lead performance combine in the most bravely intimate of ways to invest audiences in these characters in totally authentic ways.

Review by Russell Nelson

Penguin Bloom Review TIFF 2020

The Plot

Inspired by a true story and a bestselling book, Penguin Bloom follows the poignant journey of a family dealing with the difficult aftermath of a traumatic event whose lives are unexpectedly transformed by adopting an abandoned baby magpie.

The Good

Penguin Bloom is a genuinely poignant look at a families struggle to deal with and overcome the new challenges and emotional burdens of living with life changing disability.

Naomi Watts gives a characteristically unflinching performance as a wife and mother redefining her sense of self after an accident leads leaves her paralysed from the chest down. The talented two time best actress Oscar nominee runs the full gambit of emotions moving gradually from a state of angry despair towards a cathartic and almost euphoric new happiness. Though the physical limitations she portrays are understated on camera, it’s the credibility of her emotional portrayal that if far more impactful.

Alongside Watts The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln effectively plays a devoted husband and father. His subtle Australian accent work is particularly flawless to the point of being entirely unnoticeable and his flashes of raw emotion are heartfelt.  The young actors playing their three sons are also all equally well chosen and natural in their performances, showing none of the distracting stage school affections all too common in child actors.  Together the core cast form a truly plausible family unit.

A brilliant supporting cast lead by the talented familiar faces of Jackie Weaver and Rachel House flesh out the world beyond the immediate Bloom family with warmth and humour. These are particularly invaluable contributions that help to offset some of the film’s bleaker moments and more sombre early tone.

The titular magpie hero named ‘Penguin Bloom’ is obviously a scene stealing star for the production. The well trained authentic aviary hero holds audience’s attention and populates the screen with an endless array of cute moments likely to impact and inspire audiences just as much as they did for the real family.

The Bad

The film requires a degree of patience as the earliest stages are both slow moving and uncomfortably anguished. This is a necessary jumping off point for a tale which is ultimately uplifting and inspiring but nevertheless it challenges audiences to push past that initial discomfort.

This film may also prove particularly challenging for anyone whose life has been similarly effected by life changing medical circumstance. However whilst that might trigger a deeper vein of emotions it will also make such audience members even more appreciative about seeing this journey authentically captured on screen.

The Ugly Truth

Penguin Bloom challenges audiences and is a deeply emotional exploration of an incredibly sensitive subject matter. It remains both authentically upsetting and ultimately inspiring and cathartic. It’s a powerful portrait of family love and true healing.

Review by Russell Nelson