Whistler Film Festival Day 20 – Of Love & Fireflies

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

This is the final day of Whistler Film Festival premieres and as always, a sense of sadness hits me as it will be a full year until I can partake in the celebration of movies. As I couldn’t do it in the village

One perk about doing the entire festival online and in my house this year was that I sat down and watched all 97 films at the festival over the course of two weeks. That’s 30 features and 67 short subjects, all of which were written about here on GetReelMovies.com over the last twenty days of coverage. Finalized with the last two features below. I have been attending Whistler since 2007 and I have never been able to see the entire catalogue every year, so this was an absolute treat (with lots of coffee, breakfast sandwiches and the occasional popcorn and bagged candy. Because I still like movie snacks). 

GetReelMovies.com will continue to cover festivals into 2021, with the inclusion of local Victoria Film Festival in February and SxSW Online in March, among others! For now, check out the final two reviews of WFF 2020 including one key title from Quebec and a Canadian Indie with a few American connections.

(Note: this clip is not subtitled, but the version on the WFF Virtual site has english subtitles.)

Goddess of the Fireflies (Quebec, dir. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette)

A smash hit in Quebec when theaters were open a few months ago, I can absolutely see why as GODDESS OF THE FIREFLIES is an eye-opening coming of age story. In the opening moments we see Catherine (Kelly Depeault), a 16 year old girl, mostly in close-up as we watch her parents go through a brutal fight which climaxes in a shocking image. From there, Catherine starts to become rebellious and starts hanging out with a new group of kids at her high school who definitely do not lead her down the right path.

I have seen so many young people drift in the way that Catherine does and it’s horrifying to see. Yet deep down, we always see Catherine is capable of good, but she’s still surrounded by bad influence. What I loved about the picture is that it isn’t afraid to show all of this, warts and all, even though some older audiences may recoil in horror. It’s also set in the 1990s and it gets the trends down really well from a CD walkman right down to dancing to the PULP FICTION soundtrack. 

In some ways, GODDESS OF THE FIREFLIES will be a horror movie for some parents and they may want to closer monitor their kids who suddenly start smoking, having sex, getting tattoos and doing drugs when their heads are turned the other way. But this kind of teenage rebellion happens more than you think and GODDESS OF THE FIREFLIES gets tremendous power out of not hiding anything, reminding me of the power of Catherine Hardwick’s THIRTEEN from many years ago. 

One of the very best performances of WFF is that of young Kelly Depalaut as Catherine, who I think will be a breakout star in the next few years. Only 18 years of age in real life, Depalaut not only shines in this movie with powerful, deep eyes and a fearless abandon, but she perfectly captures those moments of teenage innocence turning into badness and deserves to be huge and not just in Quebec.

Rating: ***1/2 out of ****

Puppy Love (Canada, dir. Michael Maxxis)

This truly is one of the strangest movies I have seen this year, let alone at the Whistler Film Festival, so perhaps this is a good movie to go out on. PUPPY LOVE is about a hapless guy named Morgan (Hopper Penn, Sean’s son), a 23 year old part time restaurant worker where we first meet him going into a community pool hot tub and starting to tell his entire life story to whoever will listen (the first being a pre-teen girl who appears a bit nervous as to why he is speaking to her in the first place). The story he tells us is, according to the opening titles, 87% true, a recounting of an love story between himself and a prostitute (Paz de la Huerta) who he winds up dating, kind of, as he deals with a bunch of crazy characters around him. 

Filmmaker Michael Maxxis’ tone goes all over the map, going from near hardcore nudity in some parts, outright physical violence against another person to solve a problem, to an ever-present large bottle of soda which seems to be Morgan’s main source of energy. Characters come in and out of the story along with a who’s-who of 1990s character actors, from a small part by Rosanna Arquette as Morgan’s mom and Michael Madsen as a friend of Morgan’s brother that gets to kick some butt later in the movie. Even the cinematography by Larry Smith (whose first job was Stanley Kubrick’s lighting cameraman on EYES WIDE SHUT, of all movies) is really interesting as it pairs the seedy run-down parts of the city along with stunning night cinematography. 

I can’t say I loved PUPPY LOVE, but I am still recommending it for being completely out there and strange combining sudden bursts of violence, sex, nudity all around a bizarre lead character, a very Jon Brion-esque soundtrack, and even for having its entire cast in on the bizarre joke, right down to the best performance in the movie by Bryann Pritchard as Bree, the little girl sitting in the swimming pool politely listening to Morgan’s explicit story. 

Rating: *** out of ****

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

And that’s a wrap! That is 20 days of coverage of every single feature film and short in the Whistler Film Festival. This is the first year in 14 years attending the festival where I have seen every single movie playing at the festival. It has been a great year, but I would much rather be back up in the village with all of my film loving friends and WFF team. See you at WFF 2021! 

#WFF20 is here! Join in celebrating cinematic excellence with 97 fresh films, including 30 features and 67 shorts, premiering through December 20th and available to Canadian audiences online until December 31. Once you order a film, you have 24 hours to watch it. (We at Get Reel Movies recommend the TV streaming box Apple TV or even the Roku app, both of which I use to stream titles this year.) Plus, WFF has pledged to share net online proceeds on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.

For more information, visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!

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