Last Friday night Carbon Arc screened the darkly charming foreign language Oscar nominee, A Man Called Ove. Written and directed by Hannes Holmes, and based on the novel by the same name, this Swedish drama tells the story of a widowed man who only wants to join his wife in death. Ove visits the grave of his dead wife regularly and promises he’ll be with her soon. Sounds depressing, right? The only problem is that Ove is just not very good at dying. Apparently, if there’s one thing Ove cares about more than dying, it’s cars driving on a no-cars-permitted pathway. So, Ove must interrupt his many suicide attempts to deal with his tedious day-to-day tasks of yelling at cars and begrudgingly lending ladders to neighbors. Ove is the ex-chairman of a board for the neighborhood association, a title he had self-imposed for a job he invented, and continues to take gravely (get it?). Essentially, Ove is the bitter 59 year-old equivalent of your middle-school hall monitor.
Through his failed attempts at killing himself, and his growing friendship with a new neighbor and her family, we learn about Ove’s past: the tragic death of his mother, the fraught relationship with his father, and the love he has for his wife Sonja. The film jumps between flashbacks of Ove’s past as he narrates his life to his new neighbor and his present trial and tribulations. In this bleak story are moments of joy and laughter, of friendship and of love. Ove is the surprisingly sweet Grinch who’s heart, we learn literally and ironically, is just too big.
- Chelsea Rozansky
If you've ever had the pleasure of watching any of Cape Breton director Ashley McKenzie's work, you know how well she creates storylines that focus on trying and seemingly hopeless situations. What she does even better though, is she creates truthful characters who have a strong sense of independence, never letting them fully succumb to their surroundings. The greatest example of this with her short films being Stray (2013), but this all has been perfected with her phenomenal first feature Werewolf that we screened this past Friday evening along with a Q&A afterwards with Ashley.
Werewolf follows the often overlooked stage of addiction, recovery, and as senior programmer Zack Miller pointed out in his review of the film during the Atlantic Film Festival, the unique framing helps to humanize these people for the audience rather than making them out to be monsters. The film centres on the lives of Blaze and Nessa, two recovering addicts who both in their own ways find themselves stuck.
Blaze is too proud to let anybody tell him how to be, and takes it upon himself to lash out at anybody with an ounce of authority, automatically assuming that they’re looking down on him. We see many telling moments illustrating his selfish nature, his only moment of remorse being his reaction to his rash decision to destroy the couple’s only source of income, their lawnmower. It comes at point when hardship upon hardship has fallen on the couple and he breaks, berating himself afterwards which doesn’t necessarily feel as though he’s upset for anybody but himself. As independent as Blaze is though, and whether he cares to admit it, he relies heavily on Nessa.
Contrasting Blaze’s type of independence is Nessa and her quiet kindness and sense of responsibility that keeps her behind in her journey of recovery. She’s the stronger of the two, consistently being the one to work and is the sole reason that the couple are still afloat. As Nessa is confronted by her nurse after having her at-home doses being revoked due to Blaze stealing them, it becomes extremely clear how unfair it is to ask this girl to give up on the one person who understands her struggle and she loves. At the same time, it’s also clear that she’s being unfair to herself by letting him hold her down. Watching her leave Blaze the first time when she kicks him out of her mother’s house was empowering. Watching her leave him after he is released from hospital was even more satisfying, finally she’s free to explore the life ahead of her.
Werewolf was an incredible first feature, and feature film period, and its success worldwide is no surprise to anybody who has seen it.
- Hillary West
Carbon Arc will be taking a short March break, but fear not, we return March 24th with the environmental documentary Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees as well of an encore screening of the wildly popular cat documentary Kedi on April 1st with proceeds going to the Halifax Cat Rescue Society!