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A Parent’s Worst Nightmare: A TIFF Review of ‘Pelican Blood’

September 16, 2019Sherry Li

Pelican Blood, from writer/director Katrin Gebbe, follows a mother after she adopts a young girl who begins to display extremely disturbing and troublesome behavior.

Nina Hoss plays Weibke, a woman who trains police horses for a living, and lives with her daughter Nicolina (Adelia-Constance Giovanni Ocleppo), whom she had previously adopted from an orphanage. Wanting to add to her family, Weibke adopts 5-year-old Raya (Katerina Lipovska), whose transition is bumpy. Raya throws tantrums, starts fires, kills animals, and is violent towards others. Weibke soon realizes that Raya might need more help than she can provide, but her reluctance to give up on Raya is persistent.

Starting off as a much more grounded psychological exploration of the situation, the result is a slow-burning story that explores the horrors of a child whose behavior is increasingly terrifying. Growing into something much more sinister as it progresses, Pelican Blood is bound to leave viewers with many thoughts about the film's themes of humanity, motherhood and morality.

Pelican Blood makes its North American premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 7 min.

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