Sienna Miller and Scarlett Johansson in North Star TIFF 2023
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TIFF Movie Review: North Star

While I have seen a lot of movies I have enjoyed at TIFF this year, I have also seen a few that didn’t hit the mark… including Kristin Scott Thomas’s directorial debut, NORTH STAR. I always go into a movie wanting to love it, especially when it has some of my favorite actors. But NORTH STAR was one of my biggest disappointments of the Festival, which says a lot coming from me, a lover of British rom-coms.

Based loosely on a key moment in Kristin Scott Thomas’s life, the deaths of her two father figures, NORTH STAR follows three sisters returning home for their mother’s wedding. Katherine (Scarlett Johansson) is a Royal Navy captain who is struggling to balance her high-power work and the relationship with her partner (Freida Pinto) and young son. Victoria (Sienna Miller) is a famous actress who is unfulfilled in a movie franchise and in the romance department. And finally, Georgina (Emily Beechum) is a nurse, who fears her husband is cheating on her. The sisters live very separate lives, but the loss of both of their father figures at a young age is the main shared experience that continues to affect them. With their mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) finally choosing to remarry, the family is brought together. However, they still have to deal with the trauma from their past and the pain that continues to cause in the present day.

NORTH STAR has way too many elements crammed into its short runtime, which makes for a chaotic and (at times) disjointed screenplay. With so many characters, it can be hard to keep track or care about what is going on; and when Victoria’s rich boyfriend randomly comes into the picture, it was the final nail in the coffin for me. On top of that, a lot of the action in the film relies on character exposition or rom-com cliches, which makes the overall story feel inauthentic. Choosing to animate flashback memories of the father figures was another strange decision that doesn’t deliver the emotional punch it is intended to, which I fear also will take many people out of the movie.

I know Kristin Scott Thomas and Scarlett Johansson have worked together several times, but Johansson was wildly miscast in this film. Not only is her British accent shaky at best, but her performance felt artificial. In particular, I didn’t buy her relationship with Freida Pinto; to be honest, because of all of the moving parts and characters in the film, it took longer than expected to even figure out they were a couple.

The main bright spot of the movie is Sienna Miller, who is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. Her character is the main spark to keep the film moving both comedically and romantically. Many of my favorite moments in the film, and those that did generate some life in the audience, were due to Miller’s fantastic comedic timing and line delivery. However, overall I fear her talent was largely wasted.

Unfortunately, not even NORTH STAR’s 90 minute runtime is a positive, mostly because it felt a lot longer. It’s never a good thing when you look at the time… and I found myself checking the clock multiple times to discover only five minutes had passed. More than anything, I don’t think this film is memorable enough to make a blip in the steady stream of movies that come into our orbit every year, and I definitely can’t recommend you take any time to watch this one.

My Review: C-

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