#TIFF2023 Reviews: Wicked Little Letters, The End We Start From, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

Wicked Little Letters | Directed by Thea Sharrock | Written by Jonny Sweet 

A certified crowd pleaser. Olivia Colman stars as Edith Swan, god-fearing spinster living with her fragile mother and cruel father (Gemma Jones and Timothy Spall) in a tiny English hamlet in the post-war period. Jessie Buckley is Rose Gooding, an Irish lady who swears like a sailor. She and Edith were chummy at first, but then Edith started to receive these offensive letters and, given the language therein, accused Rose of writing them — the local cops get involved (including a terrific turn from
Anjana Vasan as “Woman Police Officer Gladys Moss”) along with other ladies in town (Eileen Atkins and Joanna Scanlan are especially good). Apparently based on a true story, there’s a lot of laughs to be had here, especially if you like to see proper Brits scandalized by foul language and Colman and Buckley in excellent form. Sharrock casts largely colourblind, which is terrific, though requires an extra suspension of disbelief in a story that trades humour on the sexism of the day — you gotta think many of the whites would’ve been plenty racist, too.

The End We Start From | Directed by Mahalia Belo | Written by Alice Birch from the Megan Hunter novel

Alice Birch was the first name I recognized when this film presented itself to me as a TIFF possibility — the scribe of Normal People, Lady Macbeth, and The Wonder (#TIFF2022). And when I heard it was Jodie Comer’s first feature as a lead I was sold, with the amazing Katherine Waterston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gina McKee, Mark Strong, and Joel Fry along for the ride. Director Belo honed her chops in television, and she was delightfully nervous coming out to introduce the premiere: “Thank you for being the first audience for my first film!”

It’s a post-apocalyptic drama more Into The Forest  than Mad Max, featuring Comer as a new mother who with her partner (Fry) barely escapes London during a Biblical storm and flood. Taking refuge with his parents in the country isn’t sustainable, and before long she and the baby are fending for themselves. The stakes are never less than extreme, the subtext of climate crisis anxiety underscores every decision made, the resonant theme that we’ve changed the world irrevocably but need to do better for our kids. Comer is typically watchable in the melancholy (but far from hopeless) narrative.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person | Directed by Ariane Louis-Seize | Written by Louis-Seize and Christine Doyon 

A reminder that Canadian cinema can do genre mash-ups and do them well — here is a gothic vampire comedy romance that starts with The Addams Family before venturing toward Let The Right One In via John Hughes and Tim Burton. Teen bloodsucker Sasha (Sara Montpetit) is actually 68. She’s struggling with her role in her vampire family — she’s got too much compassion for her prey and so her fangs won’t descend when it’s time to feed. Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard) is a bullied, suicidal high schooler who works at a bowling alley. When they meet they awkwardly fall in love, convinced they can help each other with their problems. Gently emo and firmly hilarious, HVSCSP manages tone perfectly, never playing too far in one direction or another and letting the young stars earn our affection. A ruby red gem.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.