Fantasia 2021 – Part 2

Well, we made it through Fantasia and I am so grateful to have made the (virtual journey) with our neighbors to the North. It was a welcoming event that kept me busy for a solid twenty days, but during this time I saw a boatload of exciting movies and only the occasional stinker…and even that one wasn’t a total write-off. Check out Part 1 here and then read below for my final reviews of a number of new movies that were shown at Fantasia 2021 — and might just be coming soon to a theater (or OnDemand platform) near you!

Yakuza Princess

The fun thing about these film fests is that often you decide on a movie without having time to do much recon work before it arrives in your field of vision.  Allowing you to screen without expectation, I’ve often found the best surprises in these situations.  That’s how I felt with YAKUZA PRINCESS, an action crime samurai drama based on a graphic novel set in Brazil. If I’m being honest, it takes a while for director Vicente Amorim to bring together some of the disparate storylines, but it’s all critical set-up for the unexpected second half that introduces twists (and oh boy, would I not spoil one big one for you!) that are genuine thrills.  An amnesiac (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), bloodied and bruised, flees from his hospital room on the hunt to reclaim his memory.  This puts him on a crash course with Akemi (the mononymous Masumi) an apparently ordinary woman that harbors an extraordinary backstory.  Some elements scream straight-to-Netflix cheapie and the dialogue (or is the acting?) is a bit of an eye-roll, but the drive to push the narrative into less than oft-traveled territory keeps this one rushing at you full speed ahead.  Look for this one to be a title that nets a healthy audience response (and maybe even a sequel) when it is released.

Don’t Say Its Name

Those who want it to remain summer forever should steer clear of the winter-set DON’T SAY ITS NAME, a chilly endeavor with few thrills unlikely to inspire much in the way of heat beyond the niche festival circuit. That’s disappointing to report because with its Native American crew and cast, with a more cohesive storyline and better performances it could have stood as a lightning rod example of the furthering of representational voices in film.  It’s just not strong enough to do much but keep the door open for the next storyteller that has a more cohesive yarn to spin.  After a woman is killed in a small indigenous community, tensions mount as it leads to more bloodshed by an unseen entity that is targeting members of a mining company attempting to overtake the land.  The good news is that I did enjoy leads Madison Walsh and Sera-Lys McArthur as two women hunting down an unknown evil using different methods. The bad news is that it’s not hard to connect the dots in Rueben Martell’s film and despite a doozy of a finale where things really start to get hoppin’, much of DON’T SAY ITS NAME trades on cliches and goopy acting to pass the time. 

Broadcast Signal Intrusion

Having seen so many horror films over the years, I’m a bit desensitized to the masked killers and creatures that like to gobble people up, so it takes a lot for me to get truly unnerved by any movie for a significant length of time.  Boy, oh, boy did Jacob Gentry’s BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSTION have me reaching for the light switch, though.  The ‘90s-set creep-out follows a man (an excellent Harry Shum, Jr.) grieving the loss of his girlfriend who becomes obsessed with a series of random television ‘interruptions’ (hacks, we might call them today) on local channels years earlier.  As he begins to piece together a mystery far deeper (and bloodier) than merely who bypassed a broadcast signal for fun, he finds himself in grave danger when a killer’s hidden tracks are unearthed.  There’s a phenomenal sense of atmosphere throughout this one, buoyed by Shum’s blurred reality performance and an enigmatic turn from Kelley Mack as a stranger he picks up along the way.  One of the strongest films overall I’ve yet to see at the festival…and legitimately unnerving at times.

Bull

It took me a while, but I finally worked out in my head where I knew lead actor Neil Maskell from, and it was Ben Wheatley’s 2011 pulverizing Kill List.  While BULL isn’t quite as much of a hell ride as that earlier (also worthwhile) film was, it’s still a dynamite revenge thriller that is drenched in dread throughout.  Telling a story with two different timelines can sometimes be confusing for an audience that doesn’t always track how/when they will intersect but director and writer Paul Andrew Williams juggles both without ever making them compete with each other.  That winds up working in the favor for the actors as well, giving Maskell and others free range to go a bit wild with making broad choices and, surprisingly, it works in wicked ways.  When the head of a local crime family (David Hayman) begins to see those closest to him murdered in most violent ways, all signs point to his former son-in-law and hired muscle, Bull (Maskell).  There’s just one problem, he had him killed and buried years earlier per the wishes of his strung-out daughter (Lois Brabin-Platt) who wanted her husband and father of her child out of their lives forever.  So if Bull is really back, who did they bury?  And if Bull is actually dead, who is this new man?  The violence is extreme but so is the payoff and I can see BULL being the kind of slow-burn indie that gets far on word-of-mouth business. 

Hellbender

Every time I do one of those “Best Streaming Horror” searches, a title that comes up is The Deeper You Dig, a well-reviewed horror film made by an entire collective family of filmmakers.  The Adams Family (dad John, daughter Zelda, mother Toby Poser, and more) contribute as writer, directors, actors, and other jobs to get the movies made and they had a new title, HELLBENDER, at Fantasia.  I’ve yet to see that earlier film but you better believe I will after catching their latest, an extremely satisfying bit of occult fun that has a distinctly female voice and perspective.  A mother (Poser) and her daughter (Zelda Adams) live a quiet existence isolated in the woods.  Eating meals consisting of pinecones and other fallen foods, the daughter knows nothing much of the outside world.  When she meets a man in the woods who tells her about his niece that lives nearby, it’s the first step toward the daughter experiencing people her own age…and all the problems that come with it.  Eventually awakening something inside her the mother has long attempted to contain, it pits the two women in a power struggle for dominance in which only one can rule the roost.  For what could be deemed a “family project” this is creative, exciting filmmaking and the acting is top-notch as well.  Poser, especially, is a force to be reckoned with and gives the tale not just its surprising amount of heart but its solid backbone as well.  A strong recommendation!

The Righteous

Here’s one of those well-made films with recognizable actors that has set out on a noble mission but can’t exactly justify its feature length status.  The point of THE RIGHTEOUS makes itself obvious before the movie is half over and I couldn’t help but imagine how much more effective writer/director/co-star Mark O’Brien’s project would have been had it been slimmed down to the length of a short film. It definitely would have cut out some of the lengthier passages that don’t serve to move the small stable of characters forward, though every actor including O’Brien and long-time character actors Henry Czerny and Mimi Kuzyk do exemplary work.  Films about faith and those experiencing a crisis in their belief are often obvious fodder for horror because that’s when evil can sneak in and take hold of the vulnerable.  O’Brien doesn’t necessarily go for the path that you think he will, but as a stranger that shows up on the doorstep of a couple despondent over the loss of a child, you keep wanting something with a little more resonance to occur.  The more the stranger reveals to the man (Czerny), a former priest, the more we see he didn’t arrive there by chance and that he harbors a darkness within only the couple can make right.  Kudos for the beautiful back and white cinematography and lovely production design, but THE RIGHTEOUS didn’t sit completely right with me. 

Stanleyville

It honestly took me until STANLEYVILLE was nearly over before I realized the film was intended more as a dark satirical comedy than a subversive horror with nightmarish qualities.  Even then, it didn’t much improve my mood on the film from Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, a Canadian production that sets us up with the promise of something we can engage with, only to find that it’s a nearly impenetrable slice of unflavored gelatin served up as some sought-after dessert.  Five wacky strangers are gathered in a locked room to vie for the chance to win…wait for it, a compact SUV.  They have to compete in a series of increasingly inane and violent tasks to “win” and the market for SUV’s must be big in Canada because the five go to nutso lengths to get their vehicle.  Look, I’m all for the strange and askew and would have welcomed seeing a stage production of STANLEYVILLE, which is how most of the performances are pitched – for an onstage audience.  Acting so hard I thought my TV was going to explode, the cast is working in such a frenzy to play along with the game that eventually you’ll need to actively resist the urge to mute the volume. Definitely on the lesser enjoyable side of the festival offerings.

The Last Thing Mary Saw

Here’s another one of those entries that has the benefit of a great cast, location, and atmosphere but not the story to bring it to a full-length feature.  Let’s not shortchange writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti too much, though, because when the film is in the zone it’s got some major shivers to send.  Set in 1843 where a young girl has been blinded and stands accused of a horrific crime she recounts for an interrogator (and us), there’s a skittishness to everything on display and at first that works to the advantage Vitaletti and his respectable assembled cast.  Eventually, you begin to get the feeling that you’ve been on this road before and indeed the beats become familiar even if they are handled with a superlative amount of economy considering the small-scale production values.  Performances push this one into the recommend column, led by Stefanie Scott and Isabelle Fuhrman (on a roll this year after her might-be-breakout work in the Tribeca hit The Novice) as two young women punished by an uptight society that doesn’t take disobedience lightly.  As the sinister matriarch presiding over a family whipped into a religious fervor, Judith Roberts tingles the spine without saying a word…or moving a finger. 

When I Consume You

What films like WHEN I CONSUME YOU best illustrate is how to go the distance with a one sentence plot synopsis.  “A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.” is how the film from writer/director Perry Blackshear is described and that’s the best way I’d suggest reporting it out to people and then leave it at that.  To say more might give away the tangles Blackshear introduces early on, ensnaring the viewer into wanting to know more and then actually providing resolution that satisfies.  Daphne Shaw (Libby Ewing) is a former addict putting her life back together again but troubled by a shadow that has found her after years lying dormant.  At the same time, her younger brother Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) trails behind her in the fixing what’s broken arena, struggling to find a job and facing serious co-dependency issues with his sibling.  A fissure event sets the two on a search for a violent man who, turns out, very much wants to be found.  Depending on one’s mood, you’re either going to go along with what Blackshear is very obviously doing or reject it outright as little more than illustrative theater…but it’s got a few moments that sent me soaring out of my seat in fright and both leads make for compelling viewing even when its solely focused on drama instead of horror. 

Martyrs Lane

This UK film from writer/director Ruth Platt lives in two worlds, one is a stark reality of grief and loss and the other is an almost playful fairytale with a ghostly edge.  Welcome to MARTYRS LANE, a rather decent tale that boasts a real rarity…two child performers that don’t make you want to claw at the screen.  Kiera Thompson is Leah, the youngest child of a popular vicar in a small village and his piano teacher wife (Denise Gough).  Picked on by her older sister, Leah acts out as a way to make her presence known, but her curiosity to the contents of her mother’s treasured locket opens the door to a new friend that begins visiting her at night.  Giving her clues which point to a family tragedy that no one speaks of, the girl (Sienna Sayer) visits Leah nighty and becomes her special confidant. However, the closer Leah gets to assembling the clues, the more insistent the other little girl becomes on having things her way…or else.  What helps to keep MARTYRS LANE in check is Platt’s balance of the scary with the somber, ably going from one emotion to the other without leaving the viewer in a whiplash state.  The details are all laid out for you throughout the picture to decipher the mystery…but never what happens at the end. 

Agnes

This is a film I had wanted to catch at Tribeca but slipped through my fingers at the last minute, so I was glad to have a second chance here at Fantasia.  I’d also cheated a bit and peeked at the reviews out of Tribeca so was prepared for the tone and timbre of director Mickey Reece’s oddball mix of religious horror with fish-out-of-water humor. Still, I had a hard time with this one and not just because it’s advertising itself as one movie when it has its foot halfway out the door most of the time in a different universe.  The exorcism of a nun brings a priest and a young man waiting to take his vows to a convent where a lot of hullabaloo and shenanigans go on for about 40 minutes.  There’s some dreadfully arch acting from actors I won’t name and the whole thing plays like a big prank is being pulled on…someone (the audience?).  Thankfully (for me, at least), Reece pivots dramatically about halfway through and that’s when AGNES becomes less of what it was and more of what it maybe should be – a focused character study.  Reece can’t help adding some crazed touches but as much as you want to compare AGNES to SAINT MAUD for once there are too many people IN on the joke to create much of an emotional response anywhere else.   This ends up amusing only the people that made it.

All the Moons

This is my first year covering film festivals to this degree, but I imagine veteran festivalgoers and critics hope to find something like ALL THE MOONS with each event they attend.  An absolutely gorgeous spin on the vampire tale coming out of Spain, this is destined to be mentioned in the same breath as modern classics like Let the Right One In.  Scary when required but more interested in, ahem, fleshing out its characters, writer/director Igor Legarreta sets the film late in the 1800’s when an orphan is saved from a bombing by a stranger that chooses her to receive an eternal gift.  Soon, she is on her own and eventually learns to adapt to daylight…but not her craving for blood.  Befriending a man still mourning the death of his daughter, the two forge a familial bond just as her hunger is reaching a fever pitch.  Led by a stunningly composed performance from Haizea Carneros, ALL THE MOONS is by far the best film I saw at Fantasia and one to keep your eye out for.  This is classy, sophisticated genre filmmaking that doesn’t skimp on developing its players, nor does it hold back on the gore that comes with its fear field either. See this one immediately so you can be ahead of the curve after it becomes a low-key hit.

Ida Red

Even though Fantasia isn’t expressly a horror-specific festival, the presence of a marginal crime drama like IDA RED is still a bit of a surprise.  In some ways, I get it.  I mean, in a sea of indie films with less than familiar faces it’s a nifty get to have a flick with an Oscar-winner and other recognizable stars populating the scenery but when they’re awash in hokey pokey hokum like this the viewer is much better served going for the non-household name.  Still running her crime operation from inside a federal prison, Melissa Leo plays the mama bear of a family of no-goods including Josh Hartnett and Frank Grillo. With the mom about to expire due to terminal cancer, her relatives conspire to bribe a parole officer to get her out, even as they plan their biggest score yet.  It takes a long time for these simple events to come together, so we’re left with writer/director John Swab’s tin ear dialogue and Grillo’s out of character, off-the-mark, scenery guzzling performance.  Only Hartnett hints at where the gold in the film could have been found, but the poor actor is stuck yet again playing the least awful member of a clan of degenerates and ultimately has nothing of true substance to work with.  A delirious ending is confusing but in line with a film that never finds its footing.

#BLUE_WHALE

For producer Timur Bekmambetov, it’s obvious that when you find something that works, you stick with it.  Excelling in recent years with screenlife films like Profile, Searching, and the Unfriended films, the producer reaches over to Mother Russia for #BLUE_WHALE, and repurposes it for English-speaking countries. As with his other film, Bekmambetov knows how to pick ‘em and even if it’s not nearly as well made as others (you can tell it’s been fiddled with a lot to get it to translate correctly) it has its fair share of freaky frames.  Trading less on supernatural elements and relying on good ‘ole detective work, #BLUE_WHALE follows Dana (Anna Potebnya) as she joins an online game, the same one her sister was involved with when she stepped in front of a train.  Presided over by a terrifying masked figure that has strict rules to follow with punishments for those that step out of line, the game has a series of levels, each requiring more sacrifice/commitment than the last.  To find out the truth about her sister, Dana will have to see it through to the end…but will she survive long enough to uncover the identity of the gamemaster?  Director Anna Zaytseva could trim a solid 10 minutes out of this and still come in with a strong mystery for us to follow and Potebnya is no slouch of a lead, either.  As with most of these films, I find it best to watch them as close to the screen as possible with all the lights off…immersing yourself in the world but also readying yourself for the frights!

The Last Matinee

This beautiful looking gore fest from Uruguay is 88 minutes but should honestly have clocked in around 50.  Even fans of the film would have to admit that director Maximiliano Contenti gets a little overindulgent almost from the start with his retro-feeling horror film set in a rundown theater where a madman has locked the doors and starts picking off the customers.  Hey, a little overindulgence is fine don’t get me wrong, and when you have the kind of giallo-adjacent killings that go on within THE LAST MATINEE you have to sort of admire the assured-hand that has created these wonders of blood and guts.  However, there’s something to be said for pace as well and before the film is half over the admiration of effects has worn off and you start to desire things to tighten up and take off.  Sadly, that just never happens and while the killings are excellent, the story is nonexistent.  That leaves THE LAST MATINEE feeling like a good-looking demo reel for a talented special effects make-up artist instead of a new cult classic you should be clamoring to get your digital hands on.

Tin Can

Woman wakes up in a tight-fit chamber with no idea how she got there.  Hmm…that sounded like something I’ve already seen this year and indeed Oxygen premiered on Netflix in May to good reviews and positive word of mouth.  It took a concept and ran with it for nearly all of its 100 minutes, finding clever ways to think “out of the box.”  I wasn’t exactly expecting TIN CAN be the same film, but I was hoping for one that made good on its intriguing premise like that previous movie did.  Sadly, it barely justifies a mention as the final movie I’m reviewing for Fantasia 2021.  After a parasitic organism begins to take over the bodies of the human race, doctors attempt to find a way to fight it and just as a brilliant female scientist discovers a possible cure, she is knocked unconscious and wakes up in this holding chamber for the infected.   To the credit of the film, Anna Hopkins is a dynamite lead and carries the film as long as she can…but director Seth A. Smith has other plans for the second half of his frustrating feature that kind of defy easy explanation.  How about we just say that everything starts to rust pretty fast and that by the time it has reached its conclusion there’s little remaining of what started off as an interesting premise.  It does contain the single most uncomfortable shot (for men) in any film I saw at the festival…so there’s that.

Movie Review ~ Vacation Friends

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A couple meets up with another couple while on vacation in Mexico, but their friendship takes an awkward turn when they get back home.

Stars: John Cena, Lil Rel Howery, Meredith Hagner, Yvonne Orji, Robert Wisdom, Andrew Bachelor, Lynn Whitfield

Director: Clay Tarver

Rated: R

Running Length: 103 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  I’ve a sneaking suspicion that had Vacation Friends arrived on schedule before production was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that I might not have been as keen to it as I wound up being.  Let’s be clear, this is one of those Jumbo Margarita drinks of a film. The kind with sugar on the rim instead of salt.  It’s meant to melt your troubles away as a carefully designed frothy concoction of the easiest parts of a comedy (slapstick, foul language, embarrassing situations) that’s served up in a sweet package to go down easier than it ever really should.  Toss in a game quartet of leads and a director smart enough to let his actors do most of the work in helping move the dial toward success and you have a perfect blend for a sunny summer comedy that aims to please.

Marcus (Lil Rel Howery, Tag) and his girlfriend Emily (Yvonne Orji, Night School) have arrived at their luxury Mexican resort to a less than amazing reception.  Their room is flooded thanks to the couple above them leaving the water running in their massive jacuzzi. This not only leaves Marcus and Emily without a place to stay but it seriously messes up the planned proposal Marcus had organized for Emily.  Just as Marcus is about to lose his cool, the other couple shows up and hearing about the newly engaged arrivals insists that the room-less duo stay with them…at least for the evening.  Ron (John Cena, Dolittle) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner, Brightburn) like to party and after loosening up their new guests with a little adult beverage and perhaps an illegal substance or two, the four spend the next days on adventures before their final night when things get a little too out of control.

Seven months later it’s time for wedding bells to ring for Emily and Marcus, but at their Atlanta welcome reception who should show up but their friends from Mexico, shocked to not receive an invite to the nuptials.  Now it’s Marcus and Emily’s turn to host Ron and Kyla for the week, during which time they’ll learn more about the brazen pair they barely knew for a few days in Mexico and also find out how Kyla got pregnant…even though Ron had previously told them he couldn’t have children.  Could something have happened that last night in Mexico that no one can remember?  As the wedding date draws near and tensions rise between Marcus and Emily’s father (Robert Wisdom, The Dark Knight Rises), revelations come to light that might alter the “I Do’s” to “I Don’ts”.

What’s nice to see is that the trailer for Vacation Friends leaves out a large chunk of the movie that takes place in Mexico…and that’s a decent amount of laughs audiences have yet to discover.  Though written by five screenwriters (oy, five?), the script doesn’t seem as choppy as the writing staff would suggest, not even when the film gets to a third act that could quite easily have gotten messy with a number of plot points to juggle.  Director Clay Tarver mostly turns the film over to the likes of Howery and Cena and gives them mostly free reign to have fun with both their roles and the script – smart move.  While we know Howery could make magic out of mice droppings, Cena’s timing is spot-on throughout and in his third movie of the summer (F9: The Fast Saga in June, The Suicide Squad in early August) he finally strikes at the golden role he’s been working toward.  The tightly wound Howery’s immeasurable charm certainly helps keep things movie as well.  Let’s not forget the contributions of Orji or Hagner either, both women hold their own alongside their partners and often outshine them in their own individual scenes. And hey, it was nice to see them being given these scenes in the first place when all the screenwriters are men!

I’d dock Vacation Friends a few points for failing to utilize a talented supporting cast of veteran actors like Chuck Cooper, Lynn Whitfield, and Anna Maria Horsford more thoroughly and also because it tends to lose all of its steam in several big huffs along the way to the altar, which starts to tire you out near the end.  It has to work with some efficiency to get back into its groove, and it eventually does, but moments like a strange drug trip in the forest come off like a bad idea that no one had the nerve to shoot down.  Not for nothing, but I was never less than completely amused and engaged for the entire length of the feature. Perhaps it was just the right movie for my mood at that particular moment, or maybe Vacation Friends is just a solid chunk of entertainment that isn’t (and doesn’t have to) unseat anything at the box office.

Movie Review ~ Together

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A husband and wife are forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Stars: James McAvoy, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Logan

Director: Stephen Daldry & Justin Martin

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review:  With the delta variant nipping at our heels just as much of the world was starting to get back to, maybe not a sense of true normalcy, but at least some semblance of what that mask-less reality could be, it might be difficult to encourage audiences to invest 90 minutes in Together.  We all have our own version of what this past year was like; how it felt to go months without seeing friends and family, to watch as the number of people that died as the result of poor government planning and communal adherence to mandates rose exponentially, and how we started to fear the things we used to cherish like social gatherings, hugs, and face-to-face interactions.  Knowing that, did we need to watch the couple at the center of this heavy dramedy over the course of a year rehash that same journey?

Beginning in March of 2020 during the first days of the COVD-19 lockdown in the U.K., we meet “he” (James McAvoy, Glass) and “she” (Sharon Horgan, Game Night) a couple with a kid (always roaming around the background somewhere) who aren’t on the best of terms when the film starts. They’re not exactly thrilled to be sheltering in place together, but with limited time to plan and few options in which to continue to co-parent, they talk directly to the camera and explain the current state of affairs.  They also bicker…a lot.  If you’re averse to rapid-fire dialogue between arguing couples that has bite to it, best to steer clear of this acidic pair. 

As the months go by and the death toll rises, the two experience the lows of the darkest days when information was slim and slow to come as well as the highs of being forced to get to know one another again in a pressure-cooker situation.  It’s often two steps forward, one step back, though, because inevitably any goodwill built is dashed when either the man or the woman says something that makes the other bristle.  Real life tragedy enters the picture and the movie becomes a gripping glimpse at grief and the stages that follow the process and the processor of that emotion.  It’s all handled with a surprisingly light touch and what could have been a painful exposure of re-opening old wounds instead becomes a visit to the recent past through a wiser lens of knowing better.

I suppose you could skip Together if you really are at the end of your rope with pandemic talk, but I’d encourage you to bookmark this for a viewing later because there’s some wonderful work on display both in front of and behind the camera.  Directed by Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) who shares a co-directing credit with Justin Martin and written by Dennis Kelly (Black Sea), Together premiered in the UK as a television movie back in June, just a scant month after it’s 10-day shooting scheduled concluded.  Relying hard on monologues and fourth wall breaking to heighten the theatricality of the piece, it might also be tempting to write this off as a stage-y work better suited for a live audience, yet I never felt as if this was presented via the wrong medium.

What McAvoy and Horgan lack in physical chemistry they more than make up for in a sort of old-school “sparks flying”, anything you can do I can do better, one-upmanship and that comes across nicely throughout.  Just when you think McAvoy is getting the rosier side of a thorny subject, along comes Horgan with her own staggering monologue that puts her light years away from the razor-sharp comedy she’s known for.  Apart or together, the actors are riveting to watch and Daldry works with cinematographer Iain Struthers (Florence Foster Jenkins) to keep the movement of the camera smooth and minimal, unobtrusive in not breaking the flow of the words.

It’s a hard watch, I’m not going to lie, for a number of reasons, but none should preclude you from gathering to catch the film.  Though planned and broadcast as a television movie in the U.K., Together doesn’t have that waxy feel of British TV as it makes its way over to U.S. shores/audiences.  The performances alone make it worth a recommendation and that the actors have tackled a hot button topic and kept the flames stoked only makes it a more solid thumbs up in my book.