The Third Annual TIFF Next Wave Film Festival
For No Eyes Only
Directed by Tali Barde
A contemporary riff on Rear Window, For No Eyes Only follows 16-year-old Sam (Benedict Sieverding) as he breaks his leg during field-hockey practice and is subsequently forced to spend hours at home in front of his computer. Sam's boredom quickly gives way to glee as he discovers a way to hack into the webcams of his fellow students, though Sam is stunned to discover that one particular student may have murdered his abusive father. The revelation forces Sam to begin a surreptitious investigation into what actually happened, with the character discovering an unlikely ally in the form of longtime crush Livia (Luisa Gross). It's ultimately not the familiarity of the narrative that sinks For No Eyes Only but rather the almost excessively laid-back pace, as filmmaker Tali Barde has infused the proceedings with a deliberateness that grows more and more suffocating as time progresses - with the less-than-engrossing vibe compounded by the inclusion of yawn-inducing subplots (eg the trajectory of Sam and Livia's friendship/relationship). There is, as a result, little doubt that Barde's ongoing efforts at cultivating an atmosphere of suspense fall flat, which is especially disappointing given that the movie contains all of the beats that one might've anticipated - including the obligatory scene in which Livia's exploration of the suspect's home is threatened by his encroaching presence. With Rear Window (and Disturbia) so readily available, For No Eyes Only comes off as a hopelessly superfluous effort that is, in the end, unable to justify its very existence.
Directed by Gia Coppola
Gia Coppola's directorial debut, Palo Alto follows several affluent teenagers (including Emma Roberts' April and Jack Kilmer's Teddy) as they spend their time drinking, having sex, and generally getting into trouble. The movie, for the most part, unfolds exactly as its premise might've indicated, with the pervasive lack of surprises holding the viewer at arms length virtually from start to finish. It's clear, too, that the film's proliferation of unappealing characters perpetuates its hands-off atmosphere, as scripter Coppola, working from costar James Franco's book of short stories, doesn't exactly make it easy to sympathize with many of Palo Alto's protagonists - with Nat Wolff's reprehensible Fred ranking high on the movie's list of less-than-affable characters. There's little doubt that the far-from-engrossing vibe is compounded by a palpable aimlessness, and although the meandering narrative is alleviated by a handful of compelling sequences, the cumulative result of Coppola's laid-back modus operandi is a picture that's rarely as captivating or eye-opening as she's clearly intended. It's a shame, really, given that Palo Alto does possess a surfeit of positive attributes, with, especially, several better-than-expected performances and Autumn Durald's dreamy cinematography confirming the movie's place as a passable debut that could (and should) have been much, much better.