Teenage Wasteland

I skipped Love, Faith and went straight to Hope. Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy is not exactly uplifting viewing, although apparently “Paradise: Hope” is the lightest of the three films. This is what I see this afternoon at TIFF. I took the day off and reveled in the smaller lineups on a weekday compared to weekends and evenings. You could literally walk into a movie.

Back to “Paradise: Hope”. Melanie gets sent to a diet camp. She makes a friend, has a crush on the camp doctor and tries to call her mom, who is unavailable because she is in Kenya (Paradise: Love). The camp is in a beautiful spot, but that doesn’t diminish the tediousness of the exercises and routines the adolescents endure. They manage to carry on a covert double life full of forbidden candy, alcohol and spin the bottle. Wonderful performances by the young actors and an astute look at body image issues, but all in all not an exceptional film.

“Miracle”, a Slovakian film about a young girl in a youth correctional facility was less slick – this was on purpose; the director made documentaries before and wanted to retain a sort of gritty realism. Again, the correctional facility is in a beautiful castle, but that doesn’t compensate for the grim circumstances of the girls held there. Ela, the young protagonist, is tough and misguided, but not completely lost to the world. Her kindness is her hope.

The director chose a girl who spent time in a youth correctional facility to portray Ela. She knew where the character came from. After the film, someone asked the director whether the girl’s life changed after being in “Miracle”. He said that she is still working through her issues. Sounded like a “no” to me.

I’m getting a little tired of TIFF. Sometimes it seems to me that TIFF is the one percent society, privileged, smart, but unbearably self precious. Of course, that makes me part of it, too. Sigh.


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