The most buzzed about opening film of the day seemed to be Belle and Sebastian. This adaptation of the famous French novel puts a wicked spin on the ‘boy and his dog’ saga by throwing them into WWII and making them battle the Nazis (when in doubt, just add Nazis). There was a general consensus that this film will effectively tear the still-beating heart from your chest and stomp it into a bloody stain. Spoiler alert: There’s a dog in this movie, people!
Day One’s outdoor movie was the underrated John Sayles classic, The Secret of Roan Inish. As hundreds of people huddled under blankets, sipping their coffee and trying to keep the straw from poking into their flesh, a camera-mounted drone hovered above the pavilion. It’s unclear which was more disconcerting; the presence of a drone hovering overhead or how few people actually noticed it.
While a mostly harmless diversion, For a Woman lacks an engaging emotional core, as Michel is something of a bore and Lena never gets any time to shine. The story is told in flashback by Michel and Lena’s youngest daughter, Anne (Sylvie Testud), as she sifts through old family photos and journals. The modern scenes with Anne are superfluous, at best, and add nothing to the overall narrative or theme of the piece. At its heart, this is a thin love story about a doomed couple thrown together by circumstance and torn apart by unrequited love. Its premise is much more interesting than the final product.
Shane is played by Baird’s real-life son and he’s a powerhouse musical performer. Baird, who co-wrote the script, shows a deft touch for the familial interactions. There are several scenes that resonate with a profoundly genuine humanity. Each character, even the gruff father (David Cowgill) who would normally be portrayed as a clueless boob, defies your expectations and is given a moment to shine. All of the musical numbers are delightful, with Baird and son making a powerful duo. People change and tears are shed, but none of it feels forced or abrupt. It opens in limited release in mid-October and is definitely worth checking out.
**Personal Note: Baird participated in a brief Q&A after the screening. Shot over 15 days in their friend’s houses, it was a project funded largely through a Kickstarter campaign. Baird was open and gracious, nearly breaking into tears while discussing the biographical nature of the material. Her son came along, too, but because the venue serves alcohol and he’s still a minor, Finneas had to wait in the foyer outside the theater. When the Q&A concluded, Finneas performed several of the film’s songs, with mom joining in for a truly commanding performance.
Coverage of the Port Townsend Film Festival for Sound on Sight will be ongoing from September 19th-22nd.