Hateship Loveship
Toronto International Film Festival (tiff.)
September 5 – 15
Directed by Alumna Liza Johnson

Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) star in this smart, funny, and moving family drama based on a short story by revered Canadian author Alice Munro.

Taking a short story by revered Canadian writer Alice Munro to the screen requires a measure of courage, but director Liza Johnson shows herself to be more than up to the task. Utilizing the sensitive adaptation of screenwriter Mark Poirier (Smart People) and the combined talents of a gifted cast, she has created a multi-dimensional portrait of an unusual young woman who has a life-altering effect on a fractured family.

Johanna Parry (Kristen Wiig) is a profoundly shy, unadorned woman who is hired by Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) as a housekeeper and a primary caregiver to his granddaughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). Despite her outgoing nature, Sabitha carries wounds from the death of her mother years before, complicated by the circumstances of that death for which her grandfather still blames her father, Ken (Guy Pearce), a hapless recovering drug addict with a certain ragged charm. In an act of mean-spirited rebellion, Sabitha uses technology to foster a pseudo-relationship between Johanna and her father, never dreaming of the potential harm to either party. Sabitha doesn't understand that Johanna is not a demure cut-out, but rather a woman for whom the phrase "still waters run deep" could have been coined. The young girl's interference provokes Johanna to indulge in something long missing from her life: the dream of a future and a home of her own.

Johnson stirs the desires of these characters into an emotional stew on slow burn, and the story has twists and turns that belie expectation. As in her previous feature, Return, Johnson presents us with a central female character who finds herself teetering on the sidelines of a society she will risk everything to join.

Liza Johnson holds a Masters in visual art from the University of California, San Diego and has had her artwork exhibited in such galleries as MoMA and the National Gallery of Art. Her directorial credits include the short films Giftwrap (98), Falling (04), Desert Motel (05), In The Air (09), and the documentary short South of Ten (06). Her features include Return (11) and Hateship Loveship (13).