Film Reviews

Review: ‘On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi’

Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

Courtesy of TIFF


On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi
(Canada, 40 min.)
Dir. Brandon Gross, Skyler Gross
Programme: Special Event (World Premiere)

Short films tend to get somewhat shut out at red carpet-driven festivals like TIFF, which, of course, is too bad. If people want to get over their feature-length fetishes promptly, they’d do well to see On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi.

This is quite simply one of the most alternately heartbreaking and hilarious films I’ve seen in a long time. Made by the titular characters’ grandchildren (Brandon Gross and Skyler Gross), it is a film so intimate, so beautiful and so astonishing, I’ll never forget it.
[Spoiler alert]

Nani and Popi are both 95, a couple who survived the concentration camps of Nazi Germany to marry, raise a family and live ostensibly happy, successful lives in America. At the age of 95, Popi finally decides to announce to the family his long-kept secret: he’s gay. And, his age be damned, he’d like to explore his sexuality and step out. This is brutal news to Nani, who, it’s revealed, knew a thing or two about Popi’s sexual leanings but chose to look the other way (an entirely understandable thing, given the times they came of age in).

What follows is an excruciating profile of two people as they approach death, looking back on their lives and wondering what could have been, if only they’d lived in a world devoid of homophobia. Popi sums it up when he suggests that if only he’d been born 60 years later, he might have had the chance to find himself and some happiness. The scene where he attends a LGBT centre’s seniors party is overwhelming.

On Our Way Out is one of the very best films of the year, a film full of humanity and the kind of insight only the most gifted documentary filmmakers are capable of. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

TIFF runs Sept. 7-17. Visit TIFF.net for more info on this year’s festival.

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A contributing editor of POV, Matthew Hays has written for The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The Guardian, VICE, Cineaste, The Walrus and The Daily Beast. He teaches film studies at Marianopolis College and Concordia University. He was on the jury at Hot Docs 2014.

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