the shape of water red band trailer

Another Toronto International Film Festival has been resigned to the dust, and it is time for us to look back on it and remember all the great (and not so great) films we witnessed there.

Truth be told, this year’s fest was slightly less exciting than last – the films were good, and some were even fantastic, but overall they did not pack as much of a punch as I’d been hoping. Still, it’s hard to deny the thrill one gets from attending TIFF; day after day, you spend hours upon hours watching films with audiences who are genuinely excited to be there, unlike seeing a film at your local multiplex, where the crowd could care less. If you’re covering TIFF as press, you rise at dawn, make your way down to the Scotiabank Theatre and spend almost the entire day there. It can be exhausting and draining, but it’s also wonderful.

For the sake of completion, I’ve compiled links to all the /Film reviews (written by me and Marshall Shaffer) out of this year’s TIFF, as well as a blurb or two for films that did not receive a full review. Here is every movie we saw at TIFF 2017.

 Battle of the Sexes Clips

Battle of the Sexes

Dayton and Ferris assemble a massive ensemble of talented performers to bring the manifold speaking roles in Battle of the Sexes to vibrant life. Whether it’s the fellow female tennis players who follow King into an uncertain separate league or King’s briefly appearing parents, the bench is replete with talented character actors who perk up every scene. No wonder Dayton and Faris shoot the actual tennis battle almost exclusively in a master shot – they save all the cutting to get the reactions of their cast in the stands. 8/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

Breathe

Breathe

As an innovator in the field of motion capture technology, Andy Serkis might possess a greater understanding of the nuances and capabilities of the human face than anyone working in cinema. The knowledge shows early on in Breathe, Serkis’ directorial debut, as Andrew Garfield’s protagonist Robin Cavendish begins to succumb to paralysis from polio. Serkis shoots his affliction primarily in extreme close-up, a camera length at which Garfield is more than capable at conveying nuance. With just the slightest shift of his glance or the quiver of his lip, Garfield conveys as much as his grandest gestures in other films. 6/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

Call Me By Your Name Trailer

Call Me By Your Name

Luca Guadagnino is the king of summer. Few directors are able to capture the thick, heavy air and hot, humid nights rich with whirring insects that are prevalent during summertime as well as the Bigger Splash director. Here he crafts another lush summer experience, set in Italy during the 1980s. Timothée Chalamet, in a break-out role, is Elio, a young man who finds himself enamored with his father’s new assistant (Armie Hammer, once again reminding us he’s an excellent actor who deserves better parts than The Lone Ranger). Romantic, hypnotic, and ultimately a touch melancholy, Call Me By Your Name is one of the year’s best films. A speech near the end by Michael Stuhlbarg, playing Chalamet’s father, will take your breath away. 9/10

Chappaquiddick review

Chappaquiddick

Biographical films typically do not choose to dwell on the worst period of a public figure’s life, and seldom do they linger in the unsavoriness of their subject to the extent Chappaquiddick does. Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan’s script portrays Ted Kennedy as an impulsive figure who often ignores the sage advice of his closest counsel, even nearing an abusive level with his relative Joe Gargan (a touchingly earnest Ed Helms). The film catches Kennedy in a vicious cycle. He’s perpetually disappointed in others, which leads him to perpetually disappoint everyone around him. The result is a disgusting miasma of spin and deception that evinces the Kennedy instinct to favor their created myths over the truth. By divorcing Ted Kennedy from his accomplishments, Chappaqudick forces a reckoning over the divide between his rhetoric and his actions. 7/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

current war tiff

The Current War

The Current War may not break new ground, but it finds exciting ways to make the old seem new. It runs out of steam near the end, beginning to lag and continuing on well past a scene that would’ve made for a perfect ending. But this is an inventive film about inventors. “There’s a way to do it better – find it,” Edison said. The Current War finds a (mostly) better way to tell a familiar story. 6/10 [Full Review]

darkest hour

Darkest Hour

Overall though, the power in Darkest Hour rests on Gary Oldman and how he uses Churchill’s words. There’s plenty to dislike about Churchill’s politics, but the man was a great orator, and Darkest Hour stresses the power of Churchill’s words, and words in general, through several key moments. But anyone can go in front of a crowd and deliver words – it’s whether or not the speaker believes the words that gives them their power. Oldman understands that, and brings it to his performance. 7/10 [Full Review]

death of stalin tiff

The Death of Stalin

It’s hard not to see parallels to the current American political climate and that of the chaotic days following the demise of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as depicted in The Death of Stalin. Of course, The Death of Stalin manages to make its events much funnier. Much, much funnier. With this film, an adaptation of a graphic novel, Iannucci, who helmed the acerbic In The Loop, has made his masterpiece, a pitch-black comedy of terrors that might be one of the most hilarious films of the 21st century. 9/10 [Full Review]

DOWNSIZING

Downsizing

No matter the narrative hiccups, the issues raised [by Downsizing] are fascinating to ponder because Payne and Taylor take the time to consider them fully. The capacity to shrink humans for population control is a far-fetched sci-fi concept, but the stretching of our planet beyond its capabilities has already begun. Downsizing dares to ask if humans will be ready to make the sacrifices necessary for the survival and preservation of the species is on the line. Payne and Taylor can pose the question without inducing complete debilitation because it’s one they ask with genuine concern and empathy for their fellow earthlings. 7/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

First Reformed Review

First Reformed

We’ve quietly entered a renaissance of master American filmmakers tackling religious subjects with the gravity, dignity and seriousness they deserve. Add Paul Schrader’s latest movie First Reformed to a growing list of modern masterpieces on faith through hardship that includes Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man and James Gray’s The Immigrant10/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

The Florida Project Review

The Florida Project

The final moments of The Florida Project unfold breathlessly – tension is mounting, and there’s the queasy sense that something terrible is about to happen, like a destructive storm about to break. And then Baker does something magnificent – he follows Moonee and Jancey on one last adventure before the credits roll. Is it real or is it fantasy? It doesn’t matter. It’s magic. We can all do with a bit more magic in our kingdoms. 10/10 [Full Review]

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