SFIFF Report: Saturday Evening

Caught two movies after dinner last night:

A- Oslo, August 31
Anders, a recovering drug  addict living in a halfway house in the country, gets a day’s leave to return to Oslo for a job interview. The trip will also give him a chance to catchoslo_august_31 up with some friends. But he’s lost, has no idea how to reconnect with the outside world in a safe way, and feels threatened by constant temptation. Over the course of the day and night, his story moves from difficult but hopeful to harrowing and depressing. Filmmaker Joachim Trier takes us on a journey into Anders’ world and, even scarier, his mind. It’s one thing to read about drug addiction. Oslo, August 31 makes you feel the strain of wavering between a difficult recovery and a lifelong disaster.

You’ll get another chance to see Oslo, August 31 next Friday night at the SF Film Society Cinema. But don’t worry if you miss that one; the film has been picked up by Stand Releasing for a theatrical release.

A By the Fire
So sad. By the Fire starts out simply examining a couple’s daily life. Daniel is a middle-aged farm worker. He’s not desperately poor–he has a modest house, a cellphone, and a truck. Best of all, he shares a deep, loving, empathetic, and passionate relationship with his wife, Alejandra. But she isn’t well, and Daniel slowing becomes her caregiver as well as the breadwinner. As the months go by, it becomes clear that her time is limited.

By the Fire slowly becomes a study of a man watching over his wife’s death. He has beside_the_fireto continue working, but as his domestic responsibilities increase, he frequently must leave his work at the ring of his cellphone. And each time it rings, he takes a little longer to answer it. He puts on a stoic face, but you can see that he’s torn apart inside, both by the increased responsibility and the fear of losing the person he loves.

Writer/director Alejandro Fernández Almendras lets the story tell itself visually, in a loose, unhurried way. Alejandra’s disease is never discussed in detail, and Daniel avoids talking about his feelings. Almendras is so confident in his filmmaking abilities that he can hold the camera on a playing kitten for an extended time.

A real treasure.

You have two more chances to see By the Fire–Sunday, April 29, 3:00, and Wednesday, May 2, 3:00. Both are at the Kabuki. There are no plans for a theatrical release.