Hansel and Gretel gets a frighteningly realist retelling in this festival standout that would make the Brothers Grimm proud.
Growing up in poverty with an aloof, ill suited mother in Winnipeg, 8 year old Gemma and her younger brother Harley are left behind in the backseat of truck while their mother goes and parties. Following a falling out between mom and her boyfriend – both of whom forget the kids were in the car – they get uncaringly ditched in the middle of the woods to fend for themselves. They happen upon a pig farm, run by a quiet young man who might not be all that he seems and could be harbouring darker secrets than their mother.
Director and co-writer Danishka Esterhazy sometimes has a hard time explaining how this story could still be going on without logical or tragic conclusions, but what the narrative lacks in cohesiveness, she makes up for in alarming amounts of style and tension. Instead of happening upon a candy house, the motives of Gemma and Harley are a lot more universal in nature; they just want a warm place to stay and actual food on the table. Esterhazy does a splendid job of keeping obscure just what the pig farmer’s ultimate end game might be, but not at the expense of treating the audience as fools who have never heard about Hansel and Gretel. It’s just removed enough to have a maximum impact. She also get exceptional performances out of her young leads, both of whom help contribute to the film’s unnervingly low key feel.
If you can only see one film at this year’s festival, this is it. (Andrew Parker)
Saturday, March 22nd, 6:30pm, The Royal