TIFF Next Wave ’21: Our Review of Tahara

TIFF Next Wave ’21: Our Review of Tahara

Tahara is both a Slamdance 2020 and TIFF Next Wave 2021 selection. It brings a unique and frustrating tale of sexual awakening and manipulation to the screen. But it brings that tale to screen in the right way. It all takes place during an afternoon funeral service. The service is for Samantha, a fellow Hebrew school classmate that no one in the class seemed to know very well. Two of the ‘mourners’ are Hannah (Rachel Sennott) and her best friend Carrie (Madeline Grey DeFreece).

Instead of mourning they spend most of the service gossiping back and forth. Meanwhile Hannah obsesses over her classmate Tristan (Daniel Tavares). Convinced she must discover if she is a good kisser, Hannah gets Carrie to allow her to practice on her in the girl’s bathroom. This starts an unraveling set of events that affects the pair and the entire class “talkback” session that follows the service.

Tahara presents the majority of its film in a vertical phone screen format, a likely ode to the obsession of these teens and their phones. Meanwhile, it only going into widescreen for a few claymation segments, which actually works very well for the film. Even at 78 minutes the film does feel “padded out” at parts, they could have easily got closer to the 60-minute mark. But it still manages to hold the attention of the audience due to some excellent performances.

In particular, Rachel Sennott is excellent as the self-obsessed, manipulative, and sexually charged Hannah. It’s a performance that garners attention for both its mastery of execution and realism. It also drives you crazy wanting to see her fail and get some sort of comeuppance.

Kirk Haviland
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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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