It’s been a crazy near-two weeks at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but I managed to cram in eighteen films in between red carpet photo ops (Days 3, 5, 6 and 7), volunteer shifts and this wondrous thing called sleep. There are tons I missed out on (I’m still upset I couldn’t fit Brooklyn in) but I’m quite happy with my overall choices and grateful for the freebies that came my way from the incredibly generous and kind people I met.
I’ll be posting full reviews in the coming days and weeks of each of these films, but until then, here is my ranking of the eighteen films that I watched at this year’s festival:
18. Mississippi Grind
Strong performances from Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn can’t save this film about two quasi-drunk gambling buddies who go on a road trip where eventually, nothing else happens.
17. I Saw the Light
A biopic on famed country singer Hank Williams paves the way for pure dynamite from leads Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen that never quite explodes due to the overly linear, repetitive and exhausted plot.
16. The Man Who Knew Infinity
An interesting tale in the realm of The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game where the central plot and friendship, hinged on a developed Dev Patel and Jeremony Irons, overshadows any potential for genius, historically and creatively.
15. The Final Girls
A camp-y (pun intended) horror-comedy film that, if taken lightly, is pretty great; if taken seriously, will probably be amidst your worst nightmares of the genre.
The true story at the core of this film is a powerful reminder of the struggles and sacrifices in the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality. Ellen Page and Michael Shannon are the standouts in an otherwise mediocre-made film.
The intriguing part of this story is the actual historical existence of Colonia Dignidad, an isolated community run on religious extremities and the host for torturing people in Chile. For those looking for Emma Watson’s next great role, you may want to look elsewhere. Still, the story is enough to keep your interest, especially in the climatic ending.
12. AnomalisaAn incredibly detailed and beautifully made stop-motion film directed by Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). I was a little lost in the last act, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first two-thirds of the film.
11. Mr.RightA really ridiculous plot births some occasionally overdone comedic performances from Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell, but all-in-all some great fun.
Cate Blanchett once again proves her chameleon ways in her incredible performance as former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. A true story that explores the politics of reporting occasionally feels sensationalized but still, enjoyable.
Everything is a metaphor in Jean-Marc Vallée’s follow-up to Wild, and while there are only so many times you can take the imagery, Jake Gyllenhaal makes it all worthwhile.
A beautifully made-film that depicts the immigrant experience for a Sri Lankan family who escapes the civil war in their home country and settles in France. My points of contention with this film lie in the specific context that is used to tell this story, but I enjoyed the filmmaking and acting.
Bryan Cranston is the snappy, witty and at-times frustrating Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenplay writer who is imprisoned and later placed on the Hollywood blacklist due to his belief in communism. An interesting look at the impact of Cold War politics on Hollywood, Trumbo is funny and entertaining with some great feature work from Cranston.
6. The Danish Girl
Academy-award winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) returns with an impeccably produced The Danish Girl. Besides gorgeous cinematography and another strong effort made by Eddie Redmayne, star Alicia Vikander is the real treat in this film.
Room is full of Canadian connections; the story comes from the book by London, ON-native Emma Donoghue, it was filmed in Toronto, and most importantly, eight year-old star Jacob Tremblay who is an absolute gem in the heartbreaking story, is from Vancouver. The chemistry between him and star Brie Larson guides this film to your gut. Winner of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at TIFF. Bring the tissues.
4. The Lobster
A dystopian film ridiculous in all the right ways, The Lobster is exactly the type of off-beat comedy that you would expect it to be and is so successfully hilarious.
3. Angry Indian Goddesses
I’ve been waiting nearly my whole life for a film that tackles Indian women not in terms of stereotypes or Bollywood portrayals, but in their authentic, diverse, colourful and wild ways. Angry Indian Goddesses is hilarious, charming, feminist, occasionally disjointed but a wonderful tale of what it means to be a woman. Runner-up to the People’s Choice Awards
The phrase “edge of your seat” has never been more applicable to me than while watching Emily Blunt get sent into a deep, covert operation dealing with drug cartels. The combination of Blunt and Benicio Del Toro’s impeccable performances, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s eerie score and Montreal-native Denis Villeneuve’s masterful directing make Sicario one of the best cinematic adventures of the year.
The understated performances of an all-star cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Liev Schreiber) guide the shocking story uncovering a mass scandal of child sexual abuse amongst Catholic priests in Boston. The integrity in the storytelling is a real tribute to the value of investigative journalism. Keep an eye out for this to sweep this year’s award season.