Too Real: A Review of ‘Standstill’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 11, 2015
Too Real: A Review of ‘Standstill’

Using inexperienced actors on a movie can always be a bit of a crap shoot.  While Standstill goes for a cold sense of hyperrealism as it paints its monochromatic universe while leaning on the gimmick of being mostly in Mohawk and Arabic.  While the us inexperienced non-actors, makes it feel a little too rigid,   it still has an unshakable sense of beautiful dread about it that draws us in more and helps us over look any obvious short comings.

Arihote, a Kanienkehaka ‘Mohawk’, is in a rut as this former war photographer is just painfully bored by the weddings gigs that he now takes to make ends meet while living in Montreal.  One day, he stumbles into a murder by his upstairs neighbour, Wedad, a Palestinian refugee.  On his way to Toronto to bail his son out of jail he can’t shake how overwhelmed he is by what he has witnessed in the past in order to piece together and move on from it all in his present. Thwarted by the cultural and political forces that are on their lives, can these two people who are now uniquely joined together be able to shake off their pasts and move on from it all, or will the inertia of their upbringings keep them both bogged down.

Writer/director Majdi El-Omari  hasn’t given us a perfect effort with Standstill, but his use of stark and often beautiful photography shows some genuine promise despite the acting be far too rigid to genuinely work inside any kind of effective narrative.

With the exception of the beginning and the end of the film, El-Omari shoots the entire thing in a monochromatic wash, giving us this overwhelmingly drab feeling.  Granted it is supposed to be there and it works in concert with some of his shot selection to make for a movie that is still quite visually interesting, in spite of the dull performances.

I get the temptation to have something be, “real”.  However when performances are just the result of bad line delivery in order to move a story along, you can count me out.  This script had a lot of subtle potential and nuance that could have used the touch of some experienced actors but it got lost in the rigid translation of it all.

Ultimately, Standstill makes for an interesting experiment with a director who is showing the ability and knowledge of how to create an attractive film.  However the gimmick of reality sinks the potential here right back down, and while I appreciate the cultural statement that this movie is trying to make about how different ethnic groups react to their surroundings in this country, genuine actors could have sold this idea far better.

Standstill opens exclusively at the Royal this Friday in downtown Toronto.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.

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