TIFF has made it its mission this year to shine the spotlight on women. Female directors, actors and subjects have been given a platform. Emma Stone brings us Billie Jean King. Jessica Chastain brings us Molly Bloom and Catherine Weldon. Claire Foy brings us Diana Cavendish. Kristen Scott Thomas brings us Churchill. Kate Mara brings us Mary Jo Kopechne. Elle Fanning brings us Mary Shelley. I could go on. If we go by the program at TIFF we would be lead to believe that women are finally being giving their due and equal space up on the big screen.
Real women and fictional characters. We get all kinds of women here at the festival. Following along their lead many of the films I chose to attend were female-centric. None more so than the arthouse turn by Swedish filmmaker (and a woman) and screenwriter Lisa Langseth (Pure, Hotel). It is her third film with Alicia Vikander, whose newly formed production company, Vikarious Productions, acts as one of the producers of the film.
It is a story of family relations. The relationship between two estranged sisters. Younger sister and artist Ines (Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina, The Danish Girl) finally agrees to meet older sister Emilie (Eva Green – from television’s Penny Dreadful) after avoiding her for years. The two sisters have led very different lives and that is part of the chasm between them. Their differences. Ines believes they are going on a nice trip in the countryside. Little does she know that they are actually going to leave the country to go to a remote place in the woods.
In actuality where they are going to is no idyllic B&B in the forest. Rather it is more of a commune. A commune with the goal of helping the dying to leave the world in the way of their choosing. The thing is that Ines has no idea that her sister is dying. It comes at quite a shock. When that shock wears off a few more are around the bend. The two women have exactly six days to work through their differences and become sisters again.
The film is flawed. Just like the two sisters. Veering betwixt melodrama and being somber, Euphoria is anything but. In her English language debut, Langseth makes a mistake in thinking that we would feel sorry for the wealthy who have the opportunity to decide how and when they will leave the world. No empathy is felt for them. Plus she has taken a rather complex issue and reduced it to a plot device. It just comes off as pretentious. It tries to hard to be a “serious” film and comes off feeling a little fake. Even worse is the fact that it takes the most predictable and conventional route to tell its tale. What does draw you in is the caustic and fractured nature of the sisters’ relationship.
What does make the film watchable despite all the flaws are the performances by the two female leads. Green has the showier of the two roles as the dying sister. At times she does go a little overboard in her scenes of anger towards her sister, who she feels abandoned her many years ago. Despite this Green always is a very watchable actress. Vikander has the more difficult job as the mostly unlikable and self-centered Ines. Because of past sins she really is now just a punching bag for the, to be completely honest, manipulative Emilie.