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Image: Spirited Away

Magic in the Dark: What’s playing at Ottawa’s independent cinemas

By Barbara Popel on December 20, 2021

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This is the first in what I hope will be a semi-regular list of recommended films at Ottawa’s two independent cinemas—The ByTowne and The Mayfair. I’ll start with some tempting films from now until the end of the year.

ByTowne Cinema

Here’s what I particularly recommend at the ByTowne…

One of my favourite animated films—perhaps my most favourite—Spirited Away is on Dec. 20, 22 and 23. It’s probably the most famous film from the brilliant Studio Ghibli—utterly gorgeous! And a great story, too. A young Japanese girl and her parents are trapped in a magical world that is full of spirits and demons and ruled by a sorceress. The parents are transformed into animals and the girl is put to work. She must find a way to free her parents and return to the normal world. Don’t miss this on a big screen. It’s suitable for preteens and up, as well as adults. This is a classic which will enchant generations. I can’t wait to see it again!

Another famous Studio Ghibli film—Kiki’s Delivery Servicewill be playing on Dec. 21 and 23. It’s about a spunky young witch who starts a delivery service, flying about her new town on her broomstick. It’s charming without being cloying. Suitable for kids and adults.

I’m excited that the ByTowne has programmed Drive My Car this month. All the reviews of this Japanese drama that I’ve read have been stellar. It’s on many “best 10 films of 2021” lists, and Metacritic ranks it as a “must see”. Dates are Dec. 22 and 23.

I’ve already written a separate review of The French Dispatch on Apt613. This delightful treat is on Dec. 24 to 30.

I also reviewed The Big Hit (Un triomphe) here. This surprisingly moving film is on Dec. 20 and 21.

The Lost Daughter has had excellent reviews and stars one of my favourite actresses, Olivia Colman (The Father, The Favourite), so although it’s a dark drama about motherhood and although I haven’t yet seen it, I’m going to include it in this list. It’s on Dec. 19 to 24.

Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film, is playing Dec. 24 to 31. It won the People’s Choice award at this year’s TIFF.

Mayfair Theatre

Now, on to the Mayfair…

The Mayfair “scooped” the ByTowne by programming The French Dispatch a few days earlier than the ByTowne. It runs from Dec. 19 to 30.

For foodies, there’s a documentary, Julia, about the iconic chef, Julia Child, who introduced North America to classic French cuisine. It plays Dec. 24 and 27 to 30.

For sci fi fans, the wonderful 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy (perfect casting!) playing from Dec. 28 to 30.

And would it be a proper Christmas if you didn’t see It’s a Wonderful Life at least once? See it on a big screen with your family Dec.21 to 23.


December’s schedule, screening times and tickets for the ByTowne are at bytowne.ca. Dates, times and tickets for the Mayfair are at mayfairtheatre.ca.

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