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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Express@TIFF: From the cathartic The Ties to the charming Tove

What lifts The Ties, which has travelled from the Venice Film Festival to Toronto, is in the way it shows that there is nothing black or white when two people cannot continue living with each other.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Updated: September 13, 2020 8:35:43 am
tiffStills from Daniele Luchetti's The Ties and Zaida Bergroth's Tove. (Photos: Helsinki-Filmi, Anagram, IBC Movie, Rai Cinema, Misia Films, Oplon Film s.r.l and Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo)

The myth of the perfect family is a bubble waiting to burst, sooner vs later. The Italian film The Ties, directed by Daniele Luchetti, explores with deceptive smoothness the fault-lines that open up when a man confesses to an affair. The wife, as expected, is devastated; the two little children are bewildered, and torn between the parents. Adultery is commonplace, the aftermath requires a great deal of picking up the pieces, and very often, everything depends on how strong the glue was, in the first place.

What lifts The Ties, which has travelled from the Venice Film Festival to Toronto, is in the way it shows that there is nothing black or white when two people cannot continue living with each other. Does Aldo-the-husband (Luigi Lo Cascio) have any redeeming qualities? Will Vanda-the-wife (Alba Rohrwacher) recover? Is the beauteous other woman (Linda Caridi) the only one to blame? How will the children emerge from the tussle between this trio?

We pick up the threads many years later when we discover Aldo and Vanda as an elderly couple (played now by Laura Morante and Silvio Orlando) who have settled into patterns set by old resentments. Clearly, the wife won. Or did she? Did the embers of that affair still glow in a corner of the old man’s heart? In a terrific scene, we see the children, now grown into adults, reconnect over past hurts and humiliation. The film offers a catharsis, of a kind, for both them, and us.

And sometimes, imperfect families form the cradle in which creativity blossoms. Tove is a very fine slice-of-life of Tove Jansson, the bisexual creator of the cartoon-characters, The Moomins. An only child of a Helsinki-based artist couple (the father is a well-known sculptor, and mother a graphic artist), Tove is expected to find her métier on canvas. As she grapples with this diktat, never spelt out in so many words, but evident in her acerbic father’s handling of her, Tove starts to figure out who she really is, as she continues to seek pleasure in painting, and when it eludes her, comes up with the doodles of the critters, and their secret language, that will make her popular around the world.

Directed deftly by Zaida Bergroth, this portrait of a conflicted artist is artfully complicated with Tove’s search for true love. Will it be socialist politician Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney) or theatre director Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen)? That Tove, played beautifully by Alma Poysti, does find someone who stays in step with her, is part of the film’s considerable charm. If your natal family has given you little joy, it is perfectly possible to create one of your own which does.

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