CVAG Film Series


The CVAG 2020 winter film series is not available at this time. We are contacting Landmark Cinemas and the Toronto International Film Festival Circuit to assess the possibility of re-screening. We will keep you posted with details.

We will offer refunds or rescheduling as soon as we can. For now, please keep your tickets or series passes.


January 12 & 15 – ASK DR. RUTH
January 19 & 22 – OFFICIAL SECRETS
January 26 & 29 – MARIANNE AND LEONARD
February 23 & 26 – IT MUST BE HEAVEN
March 15 & 18 – ARAB BLUES
March 22 & 25 – SORRY WE MISSED YOU
March 29 & April 1 – HOPE GAP


About the Comox Valley Art Gallery Film Series

The Comox Valley Art Gallery Film Series is a selection of titles from the Toronto International Film Festival Film Circuit. We present two Film Series each year – one in winter/spring and one in the fall.

CVAG staff and volunteers organize the film series, and proceeds go towards our artistic programming.

About the TIFF Film Circuit

Founded in 1989, Film Circuit is the film outreach program of the Toronto International Film Festival. It brings the best of Canadian and international films to communities across the country.

Through an alternate model of grassroots distribution, marketing and exhibition, the TIFF Film Circuit encompasses over 180 groups in over 160 communities across Canada and helps TIFF lead the world in building markets and audience for Canadian cinema.


ASK DR. RUTH Sun & Wed, Jan 12 & 15 at 5 pm
Directed by Ryan White
USA, 2019
100 minutes
With: Dr. Ruth Westheimer


Chronicling the incredible life of the nonagenarian and world-renowned sex therapist, Ask Dr. Ruth is as charming and fascinating as its endlessly charismatic subject.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer became famous in the United States for her frank and unapologetic discussions about sex. Her 1980s radio show, Sexually Speaking, was a cultural touchstone for millions of people. Her no-nonsense approach and cheeky smile might make the first impression of a cheerful grandmother dispensing sex advice. However, her life story is one of such astounding resilience that it quickly becomes clear how her willingness to name anatomical parts is the least surprising thing about her.

Born in Germany to Jewish parents, Westheimer was made an orphan by the Holocaust. Her early years, spent in a Swiss orphanage — where she educated herself at night by reading textbooks — are filled with both deep sorrow and moments of stir- ring human tenacity. When Westheimer immigrated to New York in the 1950s, she established herself as a compassionate and unique voice in academia and relationship counselling.

Beyond her insistence on open, honest dialogue around sexual pleasure and intimacy, Dr. Ruth also became an advocate for the gay community and women’s reproductive rights, during a time when both were being dangerously disregarded in the larger cultural conversation.

Endlessly watchable, Ask Dr. Ruth inspires a reverence and appreciation for this unwaveringly warm, unstoppable woman.

“The experience of watching Ask Dr. Ruth is a bit like that of meeting someone unaccountably delightful and almost being knocked backward by the gale-force strength of her personality.”                 —Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times


OFFICIAL SECRETS Sun & Wed, Jan 19 & 22 at 5 pm
Directed by Gavin Hood
UK/USA, 2019
112 minutes
Principal Cast: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Matt Smith, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes


Official Secrets recalls the prosecution of real-life whistle-blower Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley, Colette, The Imitation Game), a story that might otherwise be a footnote in the campaign that led to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by British and American troops. The film offers a behind-the-scenes account of events from the perspectives of Gun and the journalists and lawyers that warn of the perilous state of democracy at times of war.

Gun was a young translator at the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). George W. Bush, President of the United States, and Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister, were doing everything in their power to secure a United Nations resolution to sanction war. As part of that effort, the US’s National Security Agency sent a memo to GCHQ with an order to gather information on diplomats from certain nations so they could fix the UN vote and protect themselves from being charged with any unlawful acts.

Gun is reluctant to follow the order, knowing that the case for war has yet to be proven. Weighed down by her conscience, she risks everything and leaks the memo in the hopes of stopping the war — but no one can stand in its way.

Did Katharine break the law? Did she violate the UK’s Official Secrets Act? Is she a traitor? These are the motivating questions from here on out. Directed by Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) and stacked with a who’s who of British acting heavy- weights, Official Secrets is an examination of the meaning, value, and act of loyalty.

“A sturdy, entertaining political thriller that pushes all the right buttons and triggers all the right out- raged reactions.” —Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

MARIANNE & LEONARD Sun & Wed, Jan 26 & 29 at 5 pm
Directed by Nick Bloomfield

USA, 2018
Norwegian w/ English subtitles

97 minutes
With: Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Helle Goldman, Richard Vick


Most of what we know of Marianne Ihlen, we learned through Leonard Cohen’s enigmatic “So Long, Marianne.” In his latest doc, Nick Broomfield (Whitney: Can I Be Me, Kurt & Courtney) examines the love affair between Ihlen and Cohen that began on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960.

Through never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with Ihlen and Cohen’s friends and former colleagues, a portrait emerges of the woman behind the lyrics and the great influence she had on Cohen. Broomfield himself was inspired by Ihlen. After a brief romantic dalliance with Broomfield in 1968, she encouraged him to make his first film. They remained friends until her death in 2016, three months prior to Cohen’s death.

Much of Ihlen and Cohen’s story is made up of the time they spent apart, though Cohen continued to write to her after leaving Hydra to pursue his music career. “I was always escaping. I was always trying to get away,” Cohen expressed in an interview.

The interviews in Words of Love are a tell-all of Cohen’s concerts and conquests, revealing the women in his life to be the source of many of his songs. But Ihlen was his longest-lasting influence. Famously, he wrote to her not long before her death: “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is a remarkable and rare portrait of a love that lasted a lifetime, from its intoxicating beginning to its poetic end. While the proof of it will live on in Cohen’s songs, this documentary captures the time, place, and circumstance that ignited the heart of a soulful singer-songwriter.

“As much poetry as documentary — it’s a gentle, rhapsodic film, an emotional change of pace for its director and a moving portrait of a love that still resonates.” —Steve Pond, The Wrap

SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER Sun & Wed, Feb. 16 & 19 at 5 pm
Directed by Carl Hunter
UK, 2019
91 minutes
Principal Cast: Bill Nigh, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe


In Carl Hunter’s debut feature, Bill Nighy (The Bookshop, Hope Gap) shines as Alan, an eccentric, retired tailor with a uniquely keen talent for Scrabble — and for hustling strangers in games. However, the pleasure he takes in Scrabble is tainted by the memory of his long-lost son, who stormed out while playing one night and was never seen again.

Shielding himself from the cruelties of the world with a cloak of quirky peculiarities and a gruff demeanor, Alan has made it his life’s work to locate his missing son. His efforts haven’t yielded much, except to effectively estrange him from his other son, Peter (Sam Riley, Suite Française, On the Road), whose feelings of being second-best aren’t much assuaged by his father’s obsessive quest. Father and son seem to share only one common quality: an inability to understand each other.

When Alan moves in with Peter and his family to improve their relationship, he manages to make gentle inroads with Peter’s introverted adolescent son, Jack — a demonstration of paternal connection that Peter resents in more ways than one. While living with Peter, Alan comes across an online Scrabble player who plays in a fashion eerily similar to that of his missing son. As the mystery of the online player’s identity deepens, Alan and Peter’s strained relationship teeters on the brink of calamity.

Featuring quietly powerful performances from both Nighy and Riley, Sometimes Always Never employs an English eccentricity, visual inventiveness, and a whimsically offbeat style that makes for a lovely tale of how difficult it can sometimes be for even the most loquacious of us to simply spell it out.

“This film is a distinct, articulate pleasure.” —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian


IT MUST BE HEAVEN Sun & Wed, Feb. 23 & 26 at 5 pm
Directed by Elia Suleiman
France/Qatar/Germany/Canada/Palestine/Turkey, 2019
Arabic, English, French w/ English subtitles
101 minutes
Principal Cast: Elia Suleiman, Gael Garcia Bernal


A church in Nazareth with a door that won’t open. A deserted Paris. A New York supermarket with as many guns as fresh produce. In his fifth feature — which garnered a Jury Special Mention at Cannes 2019 — Elia Suleiman, a famed figure in Palestinian cinema, explores the world with his trademark, wide-eyed won- der — one that, here, belies an incisive critique of nationalism and identity.

Suleiman once again stars in his own film, personally investigating the meanings of being in exile and in search of a home. Opening in his native Palestine before moving to Paris and then New York, It Must Be Heaven comprises comedic vignettes, some darker than others. Suleiman embellishes small details in each, his style edging ever closer to the surreal, in an attempt to capture the experience of a perpetual outsider, and to suggest that normality is highly circumstantial — and often absurd. He also points to how biases in the real world are equally present in the film world, as It Must Be Heaven loosely follows Suleiman’s quest to get his film funded with one French producer telling Suleiman his idea “isn’t Palestinian enough.”

With a screen presence that has been com- pared to Buster Keaton’s, Suleiman lends a detached bemusement to his observation of the minute oddities of daily life — which, when reflected on, reveal so much more than most would like to admit.

“Whimsical and wistful yet infused with a yearning for the stability of place, Heaven will have gates opened throughout the European indie circuit and potentially further afield.” —Jay Weissberg, Variety


PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE Sun & Wed, Mar 1 & 4 at 5 pm
Directed by Céline Sciamma
France, 2019
French w/ English subtitles
115 minutes
Principal Cast: Noemie Merlant, Adéle Haenel, Luana Bajrami, Valeria Golino


Winner of both the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay Awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the fourth feature from French writer-director Céline Sciamma (Girlhood) is an exquisite portrait of hidden love, art, eros, and the gaze.

Set in 18th-century Brittany, Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows Marianne (Noémie Merlant), an artist commissioned by an Italian noblewoman (Valeria Golino) to paint a portrait of her reclusive daughter, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel, The Unknown Girl, The Forbidden Room), who is soon to be married. However, there are peculiar conditions of this assignment; Marianne must never announce to Héloïse the objective of her visit. Instead, Marianne is to act as a companion to Héloïse, escorting her on walks while closely observing her subject so as to render her likeness on canvas in secret.

Dissatisfied with her initial portrait, Marianne petitions her patroness for a second chance. In frustration and growing kinship, Marianne confesses the ruse to Héloïse, procuring her cooperation and allowing the women to forge a much closer bond — one that will lead to a passionate intimacy.

“It’s a great example of how a well-told story, with vivid characters, can seep right into your bones and keep you thinking for days afterward — and the pleasure felt while watching it isn’t negligible either.” —Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine


ARAB BLUES Sun & Wed, Mar 15 & 18 at 5 pm
Directed by Manele Labidi
France, 2019
French, Arabic w/ English subtitles
88 minutes
Principal Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Majd Mastoura, Aicha Ben Miled, Feriel Chamari, Hichem Yacoubi, Najoua Zouhair, Jamel Sassi, Ramia Ayari


Writer-director Manele Labidi delights with her feature debut, a meditation on independence, community, and new beginnings. After 10 years of living in Paris, Selma (Golshifteh Farahani, Paterson, Girls of the Sun) has returned to Tunis. Her younger cousin can’t figure out why she’d leave the French capital, her aunt is overbearing, and her uncle is only giving her a matter of weeks to crash in the apartment above their house. Selma, nonetheless, is steadfast in her resolve: to open up her own psychotherapy practice.

As Selma tries to settle in, she’s faced with increasing complications that she — or her guiding patron Sigmund Freud — couldn’t have predicted. There isn’t just the matter of finding interested psychotherapy patients in a locale that’s not keen on the talking cure. She also needs to navigate a confusing bureaucratic circus in order to get the right papers to run her practice. On top of all that, a strapping — albeit unbending — cop, Naim (Majd Mastoura), is keeping a close eye on her every move.

Farahani gives a powerful and compelling performance. She hits all the comic beats and deftly inhabits a character, who, above all, wants to do what’s right. Arab Blues develops with an irresistible charm while not sidestep- ping bigger questions about both a country and a woman at a crossroads.

“Via a colourful array of characters still get- ting their bearings post–Arab Spring, first-time writer-director Manele Labidi packs a lot of affectionate observations into compact running time.”

—Lisa Nesselson, Screen Daily

SORRY WE MISSED YOU Sun & Wed, Mar 22 & 25 at 5 pm
Directed by Ken Loach
UK, France, Belgium, 2019
102 minutes
Principal Cast: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Ross Brewster


From socially conscious director Ken Loach and longtime collaborator Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) comes a wrenching portrait of a hardworking English couple sliding deeper into debt and despair, despite toiling in all-consuming jobs.

Now in his sixth decade of filmmaking, Loach (I, Daniel Blake; Jimmy’s Hall) has become something of a cinematic institution even as his films continue to boldly criticize institutions, often depicting how working-class people can be caught in the gears of systemic exploitation. His latest is a captivating and compassionate portrait of a family who sacrifices nearly all they have for the uncertain promise of independence. Ricky (Kris Hitchen) is a former construction worker who lost his job and home in the 2008 financial crash. Eager to make a go at being his own boss, he takes a quasi-freelance delivery gig, though it means punishing hours, working under a ruthless manager, and making a substantial investment up front.

Ricky convinces his wife, Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), a home-care nurse, to sell her car in order to buy the van he needs for the job. Complications mount as Ricky starts to discover the harsh realities of supposedly autonomous labour, his son Seb (Rhys Stone) courts trouble in his new-found, semi-politicized vocation as a graffiti artist, and the family’s hopes of getting ahead seem only to drag them further behind.

Working from a rigorously researched script from Laverty, Loach once again dissects larger social issues by focusing on the plight of a handful of precisely drawn characters. Even as the film’s social critique becomes more overt, Loach and Laverty never let us forget that the victims of corporate avarice are not statistics, but individuals fighting for what everyone deserves: dignity and fairness.

“A drama of such searing human empathy and quotidian heartbreak that its powerful climactic scenes actually impede your breathing.”

—David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

HOPE GAP Sun & Wed, Mar 29 & Apr 1 at 5 pm
Directed by William Nicholson
UK, 2019
100 minutes
Principal Cast: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor


Featuring brilliant performances from Bill Nighy (Sometimes Always Never, The Bookshop) and four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, 20th Century Women), this exquisite drama from writer-director William Nicholson (who wrote Gladiator, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Breathe) will resonate with anyone who has ever navigated the choppy waters of long-term love.

Grace (Bening) and Edward (Nighy) have been together for 33 years. To celebrate the occasion, they’ve invited their London-based son Jamie (Josh O’Connor, God’s Own Country, Florence Foster Jenkins) to visit them at their home on the Sussex coast, where the picturesque cliffs of Hope Gap look out onto the open sea. Communication between the couple is at a nadir, however, with Grace nagging Edward about his lack of enthusiasm and Edward, who has long felt inadequate in his marriage, responding by turning inward — and harbouring secrets. Edward is leaving Grace for another woman, a decision that will result in ongoing turmoil for everyone involved.

A veteran of literature, film, and television, Nicholson received Oscar screenwriting nominations for Shadowlands and Gladiator — but nothing in his august body of work quite prepares you for the wit and wisdom woven into each scene of Hope Gap: no one is entirely innocent and nothing, after three decades of coupledom, is simple.

The film’s poignancy, of course, is dependent on its actors, and you couldn’t ask for a more perfect pairing than Bening and Nighy, the former exhibiting an astonishing range of emotion and tactics, the latter tempering his trademark deadpan charisma in favour of a gravitas he’s too rarely had the chance to exude.

“Nighy gives a master class in withdrawn, mum- bling ineffectualness … while Bening is superb as a retiree whose shock at her disengaged husband inspires a suite of conflicting emotions.”

—Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

ORDINARY LOVE Sun & Wed, Apr 5 & 8 at 5 pm
Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn
UK, 2019
91 minutes
Principal Cast: Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson


Liam Neeson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Love Actually) and Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Another Year) star as a longstanding couple facing a potentially life-changing cancer diagnosis, in this drama scripted by Northern Irish playwright Owen McCafferty.

Ordinary Love brings these two master actors together for the first time as their characters navigate one of the most high-stakes gambits imaginable: marriage. Joan (Manville) and Tom (Neeson) have their set habits, cozy bickering, and assumption of a long walk together into the sunset. But when Joan discovers a lump in her breast, it soon becomes clear that cancer will radically change each of them and their relationship. As she enters the cold, uncertain process of medical treatment, their habits are ruptured, and that cozy bickering explodes to reveal the long-buried truths of their marriage.

Working from Owen McCafferty’s wise, observant screenplay, directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn (Good Vibrations) show the heartbreak that comes with what Joan and Tom must go through, and they do so with clarity and tenderness. Manville’s Joan is a mature woman who has made her accommodations with life, but is unprepared to face this potentially terminal illness. Neeson plays Tom as a man more comfortable showing, rather than speaking, his love. Their big date during her treatment, and one simple scene where Tom cuts Joan’s hair, illuminate the depth of love that unites this couple, even as they face the ultimate test.

“An achingly intimate portrait of a marriage weathering a storm, the third feature from directing team Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn is anything but ordinary.”  —Wendy Ide, Screen Daily