Review: Toronto After Dark Film Festival – Citadel
The Monday night offering at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival was a dark and atmospheric piece by director Ciaran Foy. Taking cues from Foy’s own personal experience, Citadel is a story of a father who is fighting to protect his child from the evils of this world, while struggling with a debilitating fear of his surroundings. Although this film attempts to build tension and character background, it spends far too long on the smaller pieces that are quite meaningless, all the while reiterating its subtext to the audience ad nauseam.
The film centers around Tommy (Aneurin Bernard) who has lost his pregnant wife during a brutal attack from hooded youths in their apartment building, leaving him to raise his daughter alone. Tommy has since developed severe agoraphobic tendencies, yet needs to learn to live again, if not for his own sanity, but for the life of his daughter as well. The film uses up the first half to build the atmosphere; the looming apartment building where the attack happened, the dark and dismal setting of the town, Tommy’s own fear. There is a lot of time developing this character, but he is so unlikable anyways that it just doesn’t really matter. What matters most about this film is the unbearable feeling of being preached to, and the film’s rather offensive stance on nurture over nature.
With the help of his deceased wife’s nurse, things seem to go alright for Tommy once again; the idea that a female presence will help to get him back on his feet. According to the nurse, all these vicious hooded children need is the love of a caring mother, but since they don’t, they are seen as the dregs of society. However, then the nurse is taken out of the equation and things get terrible for him once more. No woman in the picture? How will a single father do it? It feels as though the film wants to state that Tommy is incapable of taking care of his infant daughter himself, and that evils (social services) are out to get him and take her away.
After Tommy is attacked again by these hooded youths in his new house, he turns to the help of a priest who is caring for a blind child that can supposedly see fear. Together they devise a plan to trap all the kids in the apartment building and burn it to the ground. Talk about destroying the things you can’t understand, that always makes your problems go away.
There are a few moments that shocked the audience, some of the on-screen attacks are quite brutal, but none of them are like the attack on the audience that director Foy has made. This movie has an extremely right-wing message: nurture over nature, every child needs a mother, ever man needs a woman, blind faith in religion, drugs are evil, addicts are terrible and destroy the things you don’t want to (or can’t) understand. How this movie has won over any audience, especially a horror audience is beyond me. It is offensive and judgmental and its horse is far too high. If the stories are true and Foy did survive such an attack, it’s possible that this is an attempt to come to terms and overcome his own personal experiences, which can be a therapeutic exercise. But what has been created comes across as a film that would be shown at Christian camps to scare teenagers from diverting off the moral path. This story is not sad, nor is it scary. Citadel is a film that will leave its viewers annoyed by its constant reiteration of its moral beliefs.
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