Linoleum, The Speech, and Fire of Love Reviews [RiverRun International Film Festival]

Since 2003, RiverRun International Film Festival has taken place in Winston Salem, NC, granting the Triad an opportunity to mingle with folks in the film industry and fellow cinephiles. Moviegoers could buy tickets for both in-person and virtual attendance. I was able to attend the final few days of the festival and watched two narrative features and one documentary feature.

[L-R] Jim Gaffigan as CAMERON, Rhea Seehorn as ERIN in LINOLEUM

Colin West's Linoleum

In this surrealist science fiction comedy, Cameron (Jim Gaffigan), the aging host of an educational science for kids, feels trapped in his life of unfulfilled dreams. After being fired from his job in lieu of a younger, flashier scientist and surviving a near fatal accident, Cameron decides to return to his true passions and build a rocket ship in his garage.

In Cameron, West paints a portrait of an American man in crisis. His wife Erin (Rhea Seehorn) wants a divorce and teenage daughter Nora (Katelyn Nacon) has troubles of her own. Stripped of his purpose as a provider and father, Cameron has nothing further to lose and returns to the freedom of his youth, when anything seemed possible. Meanwhile Nora, a lone wolf at school, finds an unexpected ally in new kid Marc (Garbriel Rush), a boy with secrets of his own. Cameron's Dad, Mac (Roger Hendricks Simon), who suffers from dementia, plays an important and unexpected role.

The movie bursts with absurdist humor and quirky characters who engender sympathy. What looks like a simple story of a family in crisis grows in complexity and becomes more intricate and touching as the tale progresses, playing with our sense of time and memory. This feels like a gentler mix of The Notebook and The Father. Overall, Linoleum is a story about true love that endures past all reason and dreams that endure through generations. Linoleum premiered at SXSW 2022 and was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize.

Final score: 4 out of 5

[L-R] Kyan Khojandi as LUDO, Benjamin Lavernhe as ADRIEN in THE SPEECH

Laurent Tirard's The Speech [In French: Le Discours]

In this charming but over-long relationship comedy, Adrien (Benjamin Lavernhe) attends an awkward family dinner, all the while hoping to get a text back from his ex-girlfriend, Sonia (Sara Giraudeau). Based on a graphic novel created by Fabcaro, Adrien channels a French Rob Gordon energy, breaking the fourth wall as he thinks back on what made his relationship with Sonia so special. Adrien leaves no thought unturned, and we experience the dinner in real time, witnessing every cringeworthy family story and slight. To make it worse, Adrien's future brother-in-law Ludo (Kyan Khojandi) suggests that Adrien deliver a speech during the wedding reception. Adrien imagines multiple versions of the speech, from confident to awkward to despicable, each one emphasizing why public speaking should not be in his future.

Tirard keeps the story lively with relatable family drama, ridiculous situations, and whip-smart humor. The screenplay overstays its welcome and loses momentum towards the end, but all the loose ends tie together and give us hope that Adrien may show up better for himself in the future. The Speech debuted at Cannes 2020

Final score: 3 out of 5


Sara Dosa's Fire of Love

Proving that science and love sometimes walk arm in arm, Sara Dosa directs this compelling and detailed documentary about Katia and Maurice Krafft, two volcano researchers who fell in love and devoted their lives to unearthing the secrets below the surface of the Earth. Fire of Love almost functions as a scrapbook. Dosa uses both footage from newscasts, as well as the photos and video shot by the couple's hands, to share this lava-hot untraditional romance. Narrator Miranda July matches all of this breathtaking imagery with an engaging history of their work together, culminating in their death on June 3, 1991, working on-site at Mount Unzen, doing the thing they loved best in the world.

While most people fled at the threat of a volcano eruption, the Kraffts wanted to be the first people there, and it's because of their courage that we have much of the images we have today. Swept up in their shared purpose and passion, the images take on a sensual, tantalizing glow. Fire of Love is a work of genius and surely one of the best documentaries of the year. Fire of Love debuted at Sundance 2022 and will be co-distributed by National Geographic and Neon later this year.

In select theaters July 2022

Final score: 5 out of 5

RiverRun 2023 will take place April 13-22.