One Last Toronto Roundup: Herzog in 3-D, Squabbling Comics and More

The last day of a festival stay is always a time of reckoning. You may have seen a lot. But how much did you miss? Running alongside the slate of pictures you actually caught is another festival, a phantom festival, consisting of all the movies you might have seen, things you tried to get to and just couldn't manage, or things recommended by other people after you'd missed all the possible screenings.

My phantom festival this year includes Rowan Joffe's Brighton Rock (I'm curious to compare it with the strange, unsettling 1947 UK version, starring Richard Attenborough, though I fear, as my colleague Michelle Orange points out, that it will be just another botched Graham Greene adaptation) and John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole (which my other colleague, Stu Van Airsdale, painted as extremely intriguing -- plus, I'm a big Mitchell fan anyway). Once I start concentrating on the phantom festival, there's no stopping: I wish I'd seen the animated film Chico & Rita, which a trusted colleague adored; Fred Wiseman's Boxing Gym; and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes prizewinner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which, my love for the Thai filmmaker known as "Joe" notwithstanding, I know I'll be able to see soon in New York.

So let's leave the phantom festival behind -- it's only an exercise in frustration -- and concentrate on some of the movies I saw in my six-day Toronto blur and simply haven't yet had time to process. I was delighted to discover that Sally Hawkins, the UK actress who was so extraordinary in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, appeared in two movies at the festival: In a small role in Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go, and as the lead in Nigel Cole's Made in Dagenham, based on a true story about a group of women at a UK Ford plant who, in the late 1960s, went on strike in an effort to equalize their pay with their male counterparts. Both pictures were disappointing: Never Let Me Go (reviewed by my colleague Eric Hynes, elsewhere on these virtual pages) is a dreary, inane exercise in droopy-drawers romanticism; Made in Dagenham is a lively enough crowd-pleaser, but Cole (Calendar Girls) puts too much of a facile sheen on everything he touches. Still, Hawkins didn't disappoint me in either film: As a teacher who spills a very deep, dark secret to her wide-eyed, lumpy-sweater-wearing charges in Never Let Me Go, she's deeply believable and sympathetic, and unlike almost everyone else in this silly-dreary picture, she's a real character instead of a construct. (Carey Mulligan is terrific as well.)

And as Rita O'Grady in Made in Dagenham, Hawkins brings some lively dimension to what could be a stock character, the dutiful working wife and mother who at first reluctantly and then vigorously takes on a much larger leadership role. Hawkins, with her feathery, floating-on-a-cloud voice, is a sympathetic suffragette in a mini-skirt, a woman who's geared to step into the next century instead of being held back by the old one. At this point, I'd watch Hawkins in just about anything, though I hope that soon she'll get another movie worthy of her gifts.

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