TIFF 2021: Our Review of ‘Unclenching The Fists’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, TIFF 2021 by - September 13, 2021
TIFF 2021: Our Review of ‘Unclenching The Fists’

Ada (Milana Aguzarova) often sees boys and men as threats and, as cinema and life shows viewers, for good reason. The buys and men in the film Unclenching The Fists do not respect her physical boundaries. So it’s understandable that she sees her prodigal brother Akim (Soslan Khugaev) returns from Rostov, Russia to her home in the disputed territory in Ossetia. But he starts saying things aloud that no one in their shabby apartment wants to dare whisper. Like why is their dad Zaur (Alik Karaev) the only person who has the key to their apartment? And where is Ada’s passport so that she can go to Rostov? He’s not perfect, but being the only sane person around means that Ada’s prison like home disappears.

Kira Kovalenko’s depiction of this one woman in Ossetia, or many of them, feels and seems trustworthy. Besides, she harnesses two great performances from Aguzarova and Karaev, but they can only do so much when the other three actors around them have imperfect line readings.¬†Nonetheless, some of her methods walk the line between melodramatic neo-neorealism to just straight up miserablism. A film’s job is to sell its characters’ most unconventional behaviors, but it doesn’t do that when Ada wavers between asking Akim for help and stopping him from helping her. The film also indulges on third act reveals that don’t work as well as it does on others. The film also can’t decide on which bittersweet moment to end on, which is frustrating.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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