Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


TIFF 2023 Review: The Critic – “There is a stage play quality that is unshakably present”

An unscrupulous theatre critic will do anything to ensure that he remains in his prestigious position.

When a publisher dies, his son is left to take over the newspaper that is losing readership; this leads him to implement a more family-friendly mandate that threatens some of the old guard, especially the veteran theatre critic who relishes his position and the ability to verbally abuse those he believes to pretending to be artists.  An opportunity arises when an actress approaches him to better understand his long-standing criticisms which in turn causes the theatre critic to have her perform a role that will have dire consequences for all involved.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage

There is a stage play quality that is unshakably present that never quite lets the audience forget that they are watching performances rather than lives unravel.  With that being said, the most naturalistic and compelling acting comes from Alfred Enoch as the loyal assistant Tom Tunner and Gemma Arterton as the aging starlet Nina Land.  Playing the reprobate theater critic Jimmy Erskine is something that Ian McKellen can do in his sleep and it shows except for the opening bathtub scene with the toy sailboat where there is a little twinkle of new life.  The real weak link is Ben Barnes as the infatuated Stephen Wyley as his emotional turmoil comes across as surface tension rather than something deeply felt.

There are some visual flourishes such as the open door with the estate on the horizon and the opening establishing shot; however, in most cases, the cinematography keeps the acting front and centre.  It is beneficial that the cast is kept minimal as keeping track is not difficult.  What would have been nice to see is the relationship between Nina Land and Jimmy Erskine develop without the pretense of a whodunit as those initial scenes together set up an interesting exploration of the profession of criticism and what actually enables an artist to excel at their craft.  However, that initial dynamism loses its sizzle once the bodies and lies start mounting.  But perhaps that is expecting too much given the manipulative and God-like ego of Erskine and the eagerness of Land to please others.

The 48th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 7-17, 2023, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

Previous PostNext Post


One Comment

  1. This is interesting to read.
    May I ask about Romola Garai, how long is she in the movie and how’s her performance?
    She is such an overally underrated and underused actress that pretty much no one remembers her anymore, even after leading some really good TV shows around 2010

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.