t TIFF Joy | sh C. K. Kelly Martin o
TIFF Joy

TIFF Joy

It wasn't until this morning that I realized both films I'd seen at the Toronto International Film Festival this year were about couples whose lives were dramatically changed by children. Breakfast With Scot is an adaptation of Michael Downing's novel of the same name. Tom Cavanagh (of Ed fame and the prematurely cancelled Love Monkey) plays Eric McNally, a gay ex-Toronto Maple Breakfast With ScotLeaf who currently works in sports broadcasting. When his partner, Sam, temporarily inherits custody of his eleven year-old nephew Scot, the couple are forced to rearrange their lives.

Emotionally, this is much more of an issue for Eric, who prides himself on being masculine and expresses concern that Scot is "gay gay." Scot, still grieving the recent loss of his mother, is indeed drawn to sparkly things, enjoys wearing makeup, knitting, singing Christmas carols and twirling. He's also free with his affection and has a winning enthusiasm for life in general. In short, he's delightful, and Eric—who coaches Scot in both hockey and the fine art of self-preservation in a society that's still not comfortable with homosexuality—could stand to learn a thing or two from him.

The endlessly likeable Tom Cavanagh works his magic again here and his young costar Noah Bernett plays Scot like a young "Kitten" Brady. At times the dynamic between them reminded me of About A Boy but ultimately this movie does its own thing and does it well, standing up for individuality with a refreshing charm.

In a recent interview Tom Cavanagh said that he's not bothered by Breakfast With Scot being dubbed "the gay hockey movie." He says, "I think that the attention that (label) gives the movie is more than anything you could do with any publicity campaign." With a message like this, I hope Breakfast With Scot wins all the publicity and viewers it richly deserves.


***

Atonement
I barely dared to hope for Monday night tickets to Atonement, the film version of my favourite Ian McEwan novel. If you were in one of the long lines for the Elgin theatre last night (or standing across the street stargazing) you understand why. Ian McEwan wasn't in attendance but everyone else was - director Joe Wright, screenwriter Christopher Hampton and stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. The crowd surged as they arrived, photographers shouting, fans ogling and TIFF staff struggling to maintain order.

The Elgin theatre is the picture of old world sophistication - the ideal place to watch such a brilliant cinematic achievement unfold. As I watched the screen, all those complex feelings I'd experienced upon reading Atonement resurfaced to such an extent that even now I can hardly pick the experience of the film apart from the experience of the novel. This is high praise. Ian McEwan is one of the most skilled and insightful writers working today.

I haven't read Atonement in years but one of the keen insights that stuck with me is this: near the beginning of the novel thirteen-year-old Briony finishes her first play. She's extremely pleased with herself - until she spies an emotionally charged exchange between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie (the housekeeper's son). What Briony gleans in that moment between the future lovers causes her to rip up her play in disgust, suddenly aware that everything she thought she knew was wrong. At thirteen she's an intelligent enough girl to realize this but not mature enough to grasp what's missing from her understanding. This is the depth of observation that Ian McEwan makes of his characters. He seems, somehow, to know the mind and heart of young Briony just as well as he knows a middle-aged surgeon in Saturday or inexperienced newlyweds in On Chesil Beach.

What becomes of Cecilia and Robbie in Atonement is entirely due to Briony's imagination and enormous gap in comprehension. The three characters lives are intertwined from that moment forward and for all their good intentions, life does not unfold as it should. It's heartbreaking to watch; heartbreaking to read. It's also gorgeous and entirely riveting. As Cecilia, Keira Knightley is cool and self-contained (except in certain key moments where she reveals herself). In his review of Becoming Jane Toronto Star reviewer Peter Howell remarked that James McAvoy "always seems like the lead actor even when he's not so billed." After watching James McAvoy's hauntingly beautiful performance as Robbie Turner, I have to wonder whether we'll see him as anything but a lead again.

***
Some faraway photos of cast & crew at the events:

Laurie Lynd, Tom Cavangh and Noah Bernett Q & A at the world premiere
of Breakfast With Scot, Scotiabank Theatre, September 9th

Breakfast With Scot Q & A, TIFF

Joe Wright, Keira Knightley, James McAvoy etc, Atonement
screening, Elgin theatre, September 10th.

Atonement cast & crew, TIFF
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