Over the last 10 days, the Toronto International Film Festival has screened hundreds of movies from all across the world. L.A. Weekly's April Wolfe and Michael Nordine trekked to Canada in search of the best of the fest, from the Cannes holdovers and award hopefuls to the world premieres and under-the-radar standouts. Here are their favorites from TIFF, with links to full reviews.
Certain Women: “The film swings back and forth on the emotional pendulum. Majestic, snow-covered mountains hover in the frame behind these characters as they navigate their relentless jobs and dead-end or unrequited love affairs, finding humor where they can. In a derelict mall, a female Army recruiter watches the local Native tribes gathered to dance in their traditional garb — with moments like this, there is never a feeling of artifice or commentary, just the tenderness of people connecting in the only ways they know how. [Kelly] Reichardt masterfully constructs a nostalgia for simpler times while revealing the oppressive loneliness of cold, remote places.” (April Wolfe)
I Am Not Madame Bovary: “Though much of the action is confined to courtrooms and other stiflingly official buildings, there are also picturesque backgrounds to behold through the viewfinder. We most often see Lian herself in profile, sometimes with the camera following her as she walks dejectedly from one fruitless encounter to the next. Her ordeal is stifling, but the visuals are striking. It's like an odd storybook you'd find in the attic and have trouble putting down — the more quixotic Lian's journey becomes, the more you want her to see it through to the bitter end.” (Michael Nordine)
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House: “Writer-director Osgood Perkins has been peeking at my Shirley Jackson book collection, and he's already read through my favorites: The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. His sophomore feature, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, is a magical amalgam of these novels, something like the most atmospherically faithful adaptation ever of a Jackson book that never existed. No time is wasted getting fated hospice nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) into a specter-ridden old Massachusetts home, where she tells us in voice-over that she's 28 years old and will not reach the age of 29. But if you’ve read any Jackson novels, you know that’s not really a giveaway — what is really frightening is the how, the slow, circular fall into quiet madness.” (AW)
Indivisible: “[Edoardo] De Angelis is also smart enough to know when to get out of the way and let their affecting dynamic carry the day — occasional dips into melodrama aside, Indivisible is above all else a mood piece humming with energy and marked by wondrous moments: a tattooed diva's rendition of 'Ave Maria' at a little girl's communion party; Viola and Daisy backstroking to shore after a boat party where they're forced to decide whether to sink or swim. Like them, Indivisible is more than the sum of its parts.” (MN)
Strange Weather: “[Holly] Hunter seems born to play this part, a sympathetic character even when she’s selfishly pursuing her own emotional goals to the detriment of other people. Her entire body, though petite, seems made of muscle, underscoring her character’s balance of strength and vulnerability, but all of this is to say she is damned likable, a pistol, the friend you want to buy a shot — even if she owes you a hundred dollars — just to listen to her talk.” (AW)
Voyage of Time: Life's Journey: “'They should have sent a poet,' says Jodie Foster's teary-eyed astronaut as she gazes upon the glory of space in Contact. It took nearly 20 years, but Terrence Malick has taken it upon himself to answer that call with Voyage of Time. Not every line rhymes, and some privilege sound over sense — anyone who's dismissed his recent work as woo-woo posturing will have much to pounce on here. But as the filmmaker retreats further into cinematic territory where only his most ardent devotees are likely to follow, he has also hit on the kind of sentiments that make you feel as though the universe is reaching out for a cosmic embrace.” (MN)
Zoology: “Just as with Corrections Class, [Ivan I.] Tverdovsky uses sleight of hand with a single, multilayered scene of emotional disconnect to signal a reversal of the protagonist’s newfound fortunes. This turns a story of discovery into one of distress. Every twist and turn of this magical film is unexpected but inevitable, and [Natalya] Pavlenkova is exactly the right actress to embody this compelling, singular character.” (AW)