VIFF ’21 Quick Reviews: ‘All My Puny Sorrows’ and ‘Bergman Island’

VIFF is nearly over, and it has been a busy week, so to catch up a little, here are two more movies I’ve seen at the festival.

Sarah Gadon and Alison Pill in All My Puny Sorrows

All My Puny Sorrows

Elf (Sarah Gadon) and Yoli (Alison Pill) are sisters. Each talented –the former a concert pianist and the latter a novelist– and each bound to the other by shared family trauma that neither knows how to cope with. After a failed suicide attempt by Elf, Yoli returns home to help her through. In the meantime, she reconnects with her mother, aunt, and daughter for good measure.

The themes and story of All My Puny Sorrows aren’t simple ones, and much of the narrative is these two women talking (or yelling) with one another in sterile hospital rooms. Director Michael McGowan knows to pull the camera back and let the actors do the work, but also when to create something more dreamlike in the latter half of the film.

Not always an easy one, but with questions about life and whether it’s worth living, All My Puny Sorrows will give you a lot to think about.


Mia Wasikowska in Bergman Island

Bergman Island

The latest film from writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve is a homage and a love letter to Ingmar Bergman, setting its entire narrative on his home of Fårö Island. It isn’t a recreation of his work, though, but instead, she uses Bergman’s work and life story as a frame to tell her own multi-layered story.

The film follows Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps), a famous filmmaker and his lesser-known wife, to Fårö as a writers retreat, screening his latest work at a local festival she is trying to crack a new story. As she beings to tell him her story, about a young couple reconnecting on a trip to the island, he remains oblivious to the fact that she’s telling him her story, even we witness it reenacted through Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie. One story mirrors the other, and it’s hard not to imagine that they don’t both mirror Hansen-Løve’s real-life (with her ex-partner Olivier Assayas).

Filled with beautiful island vistas and quiet, heartbreaking dialogue, Bergman Island will speak directly to your soul.

Bergman Island and All My Puny Sorrows both played as part of the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival. Bergman Island will be released in Canada on October 15th, while All My Puny Sorrows will be released in 2022.


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