The Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF for short, is one of the biggest film festivals in the world. This year, we covered the fest entirely virtually, save a few in-person NYC screenings. Even though we missed out on some big movies due to being inaccessible to United States press (including Award-winning Belfast, Dune, The Humans, Spencer, and Wolf), TIFF was home to some truly magnificent films from fresh talent. This wrap-up compiles everything not awarded full coverage for the festival, previously reviewed festival picks, and down below are our personal top 10 favorites!

Films

AS IN HEAVEN

(Written by Allison Brown) After reading a very early synopsis, I started As In Heaven expecting the story of an adolescent girl, Lise (Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl), raising her siblings after the loss of her mother, Anna (Ida Cæcilie Rasmussen), as a result of childbirth. The film I watched was an entirely different movie—1 hour and 25 minutes of her mother’s slow impending death, marked by superstition and religious naivete. Watching an entire group of ignorant women blindly follow the wishes of Anna based on a vision of her own death and trusting in God’s will over medicine is maddening. It almost reminded me of the superstitious nature of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The movie is incredibly antifeminist, complete with a physically abusive father who doesn’t approve of his daughter leaving the family farm to attend school; at times, it is difficult to watch. I have seen so many films as of late where adorable children keep the audience invested in a heartwarming relationship and story. In this film, I found most of the children to be grating. At one point, a character even says, “why must men make so many children?” I could not have said it any better myself. With this abundance of children, as well as tertiary characters, very few were well developed aside from our lead, Lise. As a result, it was truly a challenge to keep track of the character’s names, which at times, made the narrative difficult to follow. That said, it was not a poorly made film. Beautiful shots, such as a floral lace curtain’s shadow painted on the hardwood floor, somewhat redeem the lagging and frustrating plot. Ultimately, I just think this film was not made for me.

BENEDICTION

As one of the few LGBT+ films in the TIFF lineup, I very desperately wanted to love Benediction. Instead, my reaction was more like oh hey, now the gays can have a boring and stuffy period-piece movie too! All kidding aside, the use of poetry and vintage stock footage make this weirdly structured—I shouldn’t be confused when watching a movie set primarily in 1914. The old-age stuff with Peter Capaldi just did not work for me, nor did I buy that his character was the same Sassoon we have been following the entire film. What I did enjoy is that director Terence Davies fully embraces the LGBT angle. Jack Lowden is spectacular as young Sassoon, and his whole chunk of the story, had it been laser-focused and less stream-of-consciousness poetry, had potential to be a fantastic movie all its own. I loved seeing the catty twinks of the time period show up too, particularly Jeremy Irvine’s Ivor. In the end, Benediction lacks a special ingredient difficult to pinpoint, and I was not as over-the-moon for it as I had expected.

CHARLOTTE

Gorgeous, simplistic 2D animation is the perfect medium to tell this intimate true story of a German-Jewish artist named Charlotte. The tragedy of Charlotte’s life story hit me hard, especially via the emotionally devastating conclusion. A cycle of suicide and depression in the females of her family hang over Charlotte like a dark cloud. Any movie that depicts World War II and Nazis is fighting an uphill battle, as molding entertainment from tragedy is very hard to execute in a tasteful way. However, Charlotte’s story feels like it needs to be told. Her artwork is complied into what is considered the first graphic novel of all time, titled “Life? or Theatre?” I continue to be surprised by the scope and expansion of the format to tell adult stories—proof ever more that animation is way more than just children’s entertainment. 

THE DAUGHTER

(Written by Allison Brown) For some reason, I thought this was a mere drama. Boy was I wrong! The Daughter, directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca, starts off tame enough with a quaint tale of a couple, Javier (Javier Gutiérrez) and Adela (Patricia López Arnaiz), unable to have kids. They take in an at risk 15-year-old girl willing to hand over their seemingly unwanted child. Throw in the fact that said girl, Irene (Irene Virgüez), only met the couple from a stint in juvie that she illegally escaped. The husband was her tutor at the center. Things quickly escalate as she yearns to visit the father, Osman (Sofian El Benaissati), and tell him the truth. This unfolds into an extensive array of gore, including uncomfortable animal cruelty, befitting of the horror genre yet billed as a thriller. Meanwhile, an investigator, Miguel (Juan Carlos Villanueva), manages to pop in at every turn to find the missing minor, and the tension builds. Cuenca’s film starts off very slowly, and it takes some time to get to the meat of the narrative. However, when it gets there, it is impossible to look away; I was glued to the screen. 

DIONNE WARWICK: DON’T MAKE ME OVER

(Written by Allison Brown) I am embarrassed to say I was only familiar with Dionne Warwick from her frequent American Idol appearances; I knew many of her songs, including “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Walk on By,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” and “Alfie.” However, I believed she was a songwriter for others more than an artist herself. Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over provides a lot more insight into her long career and humble origins from Newark, NJ, to her first performing pay stub from the Apollo theatre, to recording backup vocals to put herself through college, with a sprinkling of celebrity cameos from the likes of Alicia Keys, Snoop Dog, Bill Clinton, Elton John, and the late Whitney Houston. I never knew that Dionne was the first African American woman to win the Grammy in the pop category; she clearly opened the door for many others to come. The insight into segregation in the south while Dionne was on tour with violence and an inability to eat at all after Black segregated restaurants were closed at night was sad to watch. Dionne’s level of moxie for the civil rights movement is perfectly exemplified when she gets kicked out of a venue for protesting censorship of a great line: “you tell your ma, you tell your pa, we gonna integrate Arkansas.” I thought it was funny that African Americans were on a standing room side, while white attendees were on a seated side. Clearly times have changed, as now standing room tends to be the better and closer seats. I also can’t believe her record label put a random white woman on the cover of the European release of her record and were allowed to get away with that! I guess it is not that different from demo artists deemed to be unmarketable now providing the primary vocals on A-List artist singles. I also learned that she was a landmark AIDs activist, working with several presidents, and her donation of royalties on her most popular song is still bringing in money for the cause today. I enjoyed Dionne’s documentary less than that of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged, but I assume that is because I am less fond of her music. One thing is for sure: at eighty years old, Dionne does not seem to age! Her talent and classics are timeless.

EARWIG

It is becoming a trend so far in 2021 that every single festival has at least one movie so bizarre and completely baffling that I am practically left at a loss for words. For TIFF, Earwig—chronicling a girl with ice cubes for teeth—is that film. It drips with atmosphere and style from director Lucile Hadzihalilovic, and has a warped dream logic to its narrative that makes all the more sense when you have a little background. The book’s writer Brian Catling based it all on a feverish dream he had. Armed with this knowledge, I still would not exactly excuse Earwig’s lack of explanations or seemingly random spurts of violence. Romane Hemelaers as the little girl Mia does a good job, but the lackluster storyline fails to bring together all the pieces in a satisfying way.

THE FALLS

(Written by Alllison Brown) Director Mong-Hong Chung created a stunner with 2021 TIFF Selection, The Falls. After skimming a few reviews, I almost skipped this one, assuming another generic COVID film. I am so grateful I didn’t; The Falls was filmed during the pandemic but is a study of mental illness more than anything. Alyssa Chia and Gingle Wang deliver emotional performances that pull on one’s heartstrings. Pin-Wen’s (Chia) psychosis is hard to watch, but Xiao Jing’s (Wang) patience with her mother is commendable and heartwarming. The narrative is told as a role reversal, where Xiao Jing is almost raising her own mother. She takes on so much at the ripe age of eighteen and does so with near ease. The over two-hour runtime is barely noticed, as the film is compelling throughout. A moment of pure anxiety at the end, almost unrelated to the rest of the film, glued my eyes to the screen.

THE GOOD HOUSE

Sigourney Weaver as a raging alcoholic real estate agent is just as entertaining as it sounds. Weaver plays Hildy, a descendant of the Salem witches, though this aspect of the story is barely touched upon unless you count Hildy’s ability to “read people’s energies.” The majority of the film is a fourth-wall breaking dark comedy driven by Hildy’s constant insights and humorous asides. For a large chunk of The Good House, I was really enjoying Weaver just having fun playing the character of Hildy. The beaches, salty air, and general landscapes of the film also act as a gorgeous backdrop to the action. What works less for me is the detour into devastating drama territory they decide to take in the last twenty minutes, only to still end up at a schmaltzy feel-good destination lacking the thrust of consequences for what came before. Based on Ann Leary’s book The Good House, I think the majority of my issues lie with the source material. If you are interested for Sigourney Weaver alone, I would still highly recommend checking it out.

GOOD MADAM

Good Madam is well-intentioned, but the shiny gleam of prestige filmmaking can only propel you so far without the structure of a solid script to provide balance. I am not typically one to adhere to a strict form for genre film, so I say with some certainty that although this is being billed as South African horror, I found little in the way of scares or suspense. Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) and her young daughter are forced to move in with Tsidi’s estranged mother, who in turn works under a catatonic white ‘Madam;’ their living situation is anything but normal. For starters, they must respect the rules of the house, primary of which is “never go into Madam’s room.” While the setup is rife for spooky horrors, the scariest we get here is the recurring sound of a loud bell dinging, toothbrush-scrubbing, and seeing a dog that died “ages ago.” I found the cultural representation extremely interesting, and was left wishing it was channeled through a sharper concept than that of dark spirits.

THE GUILTY

Heading into TIFF, The Guilty was an easy choice for one of my most anticipated films of the festival. Literally anything with Jake Gyllenhaal, regardless of how small the role may be, is an automatic must-watch for me. Throw in some 9-1-1 operator thrills, and it was a no-brainer. I certainly got my fair share of Gyllenhaal—this is fully his movie from top to bottom, with intense close-ups conveying his reactions. Jake’s acting is masterful, and the script draws on his emotionally vulnerable character-acting like he channeled in Brokeback Mountain. Beyond Jake though, The Guilty is not very engaging. The entirety of the film is set in one day, and we simply follow Joe (Gyllenhaal) taking a variety of calls at his 9-1-1 operator job for LAPD Communications. I tried my hardest to stay invested, but The Guilty is guilty of being one of the weaker films in Gyllenhaal’s filmography.

LEARN TO SWIM

(Written by Allison Brown) Perhaps Learn to Swim was not the best film to leave for a late-night watch. Its soulful, quiet jazz is definitely not the most active soundtrack to keep one energized. Director Thyrone Tommy’s work is visually stunning and beautiful to watch. If one is a big fan of jazz music, they are bound to enjoy. The vocals from Selma (Emma Ferreira) are stunning and a joy to hear. However, the storyline is lacking and hard to follow; jazz romances like 2020’s Sylvie’s Love tackle similar concepts and do so better. I am not positive if I am in the minority, but I was unsure if the juxtaposed scenes were intended as flashbacks, or an alternate timeline. It was sometimes confusing to see where it even veered off into this territory. In one scene, Dezi (Thomas Antony Olajide) is sitting and drinking from a bowl and the camera slides to women laughing in the background, which turns into one of the aforementioned scenes. The cinematography is striking, but if one is distracted for even a second, it would be strange to see Dezi seemingly teleport to the group. Furthermore, I am aware that this was a piece of the plot, but Dezi’s dental abscess injury was very distracting. It was a challenge to focus on dialogue in the scenes where his mouth was filled with gauze. Unfortunately, this followed through most of the runtime. I am sad to say that Learn to Swim was a letdown in terms of execution. The film has so much potential, but it does not deliver.

MARIA CHAPDELAINE

(Written by Allison Brown) Sebastien Pilote’s period drama based on a novel of the same name, Maria Chapdelaine, is a window into the life of a young woman of age in 1910 rural Quebec. For a film with prospects of marriage at its center, romantic moments are nearly absent from the over two-hour runtime. Gentleman callers show up each day to visit Maria Chapdelaine (Sara Montpetit). Her hand in marriage is in high demand despite her complete lack of personality; one character says it all—there’s “a lot of men and only one girl.” For a titular character, Maria is very quiet and barely speaks, only to say yes, or follow a parent’s orders. Perhaps this makes her more appealing in the patriarchal society of the decade? Romantic prospects seem more concerned about pleasing Maria’s family, as well as what they can offer financially, rather than love itself. I am sure this is a mark of the times. I kept waiting for a true love story to unfold within the narrative once Maria makes her choice, but there was no payoff aside from a slight smirk. As with many films of this time period, there are antiquated moments far too cringeworthy for any woman of this day and age. In one scene, a priest tells Maria she isn’t allowed to grieve a loss “for no reason” because they were not officially engaged. She is told she’s unfairly “casting gloom over the household,” and “God disapproves.” How can anyone say this to another person, let alone a man of the cloth? When another potential fiancé visits, he says “but with him dead, I thought I’d try my luck.” The level of insensitivity in this film is outlandish, though I am sure that is intentional. As the film nears its end, two tragedies take place that are profoundly heartbreaking. Better editing of the extremely long buildup to these scenarios would have made for a stronger film. Much of it felt slow and repetitive, and it was difficult to stay engaged with the first half. Fans of Jane Austen should find plenty to enjoy here; the movie shares similar themes with her novels. Although Maria Chapdelaine was not my favorite, the film still has a lot to offer.

THE MIDDLE MAN

(Written by Allison Brown) The Middle Man, directed by Bent Hamer, is an off-beat dark comedy that unfortunately does not seem to say as much as I would have hoped. Characters just drop off like flies in ways that would be unlikely in reality, and it all seems to mean nothing and is done without care. The apathy visible in government towards the death of its citizens stands out as clear commentary offered by the film. Watching the lead, Frank Farrelli (Pål Sverre Hagen), as well as the sociopathic commission, just stand stiff as a board with no emotion, while offering the news of a loved one’s death is jarring to say the least. When the film starts to get messy as Frank’s personal life bleeds into his job, a statement from his superiors stating that turning off a friend’s ventilator was his personal time and should not interfere with his job is especially upsetting and relevant with the pandemic still looming. The festival website describes the film as a drama, but it is very obviously more a comedic satire filled with hyperbole. The best segment in the film is where two severely injured people are confused, one leading to death and one leading to a coma, and they tell the opposite families incorrect news. The hijinks that ensue are hilarious, and clearly are an allegory for the incompetency of the government. I think what was mostly lacking for me was the absence of laugh out loud moments, despite the few that called for a chuckle here or there. A lot of the film felt very repetitive, and the intentionally monotone nature of each characterization did not leave much room to connect or care about their loss. The Middle Man is definitely a formidable film to watch as passable entertainment, but fails at fully captivating the audience.

MOTHERING SUNDAY

Mothering Sunday is a gorgeously-filmed drama set in March of 1924. The intimacy between two people who should have never been intimate in the first place—young maid, Jane (Odessa Young), and engaged-to-be-wed neighboring heir, Paul (Josh O’Connor)—feels elaborately set up, but lacks a spark going beyond lust. A tale this intricate and specific, complete with inner character turmoil, could only be based on a novel (this one from Graham Swift). Paul and Jane have a whole conversation about “his seed,” and both Young and O’Connor are not afraid to show ample nudity in service of their characters. Director Eva Husson does a terrific job at establishing the time period atmosphere, and may indeed please fans of Jane Austen and the like.

NIGHT RAIDERS

(Written by Allison Brown) I had been interested in Night Raiders since its Berlinale premiere, but sadly it was not as gripping as the synopsis would suggest. It definitely was not bad by any means, but it also was not great. For diversity sake, the focus on Cree culture was refreshing. I adored Waseese’s character, played by Brooklyn Letexier-Hart; she was so strong for an eleven-year-old. The brainwashing done in the forced-education camps to put children on the front lines of a war that they did not voluntarily join is heartbreaking. One scene in particular, where a son refuses to acknowledge that he remembers his own mother, leads to dire consequences. This was by far the most compelling scene of the film. Otherwise, for a thriller, the plot felt too slow, and did not hold my attention.

THE ODD-JOB MEN

(Written by Allison Brown) The Odd-Job Men, directed by Neus Ballús, is a formidable off-beat comedy. The relationship between boisterous Valero (Valero Escolar) and new partner, Moha (Mohamed Mellali), is successful. Valero talks down to Moha, and mild-mannered Moha takes it with no objections for the majority of the runtime. The phrase “working hard or hardly working” is at the core of the film. On each job, the duo spends more time invasively probing the clients and their lives rather than doing the job. The Odd-Job Men includes a lesson on vitamins and what to eat for longevity in life from an elderly man; a shirtless photoshoot of one of the pair taken on the job by the client (who happens to be a photographer); an emergency where the duo is locked out of the client’s apartment and are stuck for hours on a balcony; and a strange discussion between overweight Valero and fitness buffs about losing weight. A lot of times, comedic moments can get lost in translation relying on subtitles for comprehension, rather than nuances in performance. I am glad to say the laughs are not exclusive to native speakers in the quirky film.

THE OTHER TOM

(Written by Allison Brown) “Is that your son?” “No, I don’t know him.” The awkward moment when your anti-medication movie, in this case to treat a child’s ADHD, becomes a character study on negligent parenting. If they were trying to get any viewers to support their cause against Big Pharma, perhaps the filmmakers could have portrayed a more likeable and understanding mother. Every two seconds Elena (Julia Chavez) calls her son, Tommy (Israel Rodriguez), an idiot and is perhaps one of the worst onscreen mothers I have ever witnessed. She leaves Tommy unattended in the middle of a parking lot while checking in at a hotel, as well as alone at a water park, where he could literally drown, while she relaxes at the beach. Elena is on the run from CPS because of her refusal to give her son necessary medication, but it is clear Tommy would be better off literally in the hands of anyone else. Furthermore, the actress who plays the mother might have given the worst performance in all of TIFF.

PETITE MAMAN

At only 72 minutes in length, charming French drama Petite Maman is too slight to leave a substantial impression on this viewer. It could be that my expectations were set too high following its warm reception at various other festivals; whatever the cause, I simply wanted more out of this tale of two little girls with serious abandonment issues… 8-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) goes through quite a transformation over the course of the film. From the opening scene where she asks her mom if they can keep her recently-deceased grandma’s cane, Nelly is downright adorable. She is reason enough to see this film at least once, and her relationship with Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) is largely why audiences are so smitten with the film. For me, Petite Maman is extra twee and overly simplistic—not even a surprising final-act development that reinterprets everything that came before can make this a home run. The connection of two girls over their shared trauma is the most enticing bit.

SILENT NIGHT

A movie that feels purely fueled by the craziness of our pandemic times, yet was written before Covid forcibly thrust its way into this world? Silent Night, billed as a comedy/horror/drama hybrid, weirdly works as apt social commentary. It is incredibly soaked in bleakness to the point that it becomes difficult to fully enjoy. The only movie that came to mind from the disturbing ending is Stephen King’s The Mist, so that should give one an adequate metric with which to measure Silent Night’s indomitably depressing atmosphere. With this out of the way, it takes far too long to arrive at the horrific destination. With few glimpses into the outside world, Silent Night gives us only the viewpoint of the privileged in this doomsday scenario. A toxic gas is ominously working its way toward their little party, killing anything and everything in its path. The government has introduced a questionable tactic: take an “exit pill” to “avoid suffering and die with dignity.” The main problem here is that every character is pretty much insufferable beyond Art (JoJo Rabbit breakout star Roman Griffin Davis), a young boy determined to find another way to survive. It is hard to care about any of them with the knowledge that they are all about to die anyway, yet it could have been remedied with a stronger script.

THE STORY OF MY WIFE

(Written by Allison Brown) Since its premiere at Cannes, The Story of My Wife, directed by Ildikó Enyedi, has not been met with the best of reviews. After getting a chance to finally watch it, it is easy to see that the nearly three-hour long runtime has affected critic ratings. Sure, the film overstays its welcome, but the overall quality is good, if not great. The conversation between Captain Jakob Störr and a friend stating, “I’ve decided I’m going to get married.” “To who?” “A woman.” was absolutely hilarious deadpan writing. The fact that he literally marries the first woman to walk in the room, Lizzy (Léa Seydoux), and they do actually have a lengthy relationship (despite their constant lies to one another) was a surprise. Seydoux as Lizzy is a joy to watch, though Naber’s performance as Captain Jakob Störr could use some improvement. At many times, he delivers lines as if reading straight from a teleprompter. Their chemistry is strong in some parts and completely lacking in others. Despite this, I really enjoyed it. The Story of My Wife is not a perfect film by any means, but its sweet, rom-com fairy-tale vibe is definitely one a wider audience could enjoy with editing. The film started off very strong and ended in a compelling way where I was taken by surprise. Despite its length, for the most part I was never bored, until I checked and realized how much time was still left. Shave off forty minutes to an hour of pointless banter or lingering stares, and Enyedi has a successful film on his hands.

THE SURVIVOR

Based on the memories of legendary fighter Harry Haft, “The Pride of Poland and the Survivor of Auschwitz,” The Survivor wears out its welcome the further it dives into the post-fighting days of its central subject. The acting performances are very good. In particular, Ben Foster shocked and impressed me, as I have never seen him in a role quite like this one. However, this story feels so fractured because of the way it is structured. One of the directorial choices I admired was the decision to make the flashbacks in the concentration camps into all black-and white, giving them a haunting and vintage feel. The compelling sections are, naturally, the awful sins Harry (Foster) is forced to commit on behalf of the Nazi party, then subsequently how this folds into his future career as an actual fighter. Then there is everything else—trying to make it as an immigrant, being forced to learn English, overcoming failures and life goals, finding love, and being haunted by the ghosts of the past. In trying to be a comprehensive detail of Haft’s life story, tons of interesting themes and ideas are touched upon without being fully realized into great ones. 

TERRORIZERS

From the TIFF description, I expected an entirely different type of movie than what Terrorizers delivered. That said, I actually found myself completely mesmerized by Wi Ding Ho’s gorgeously shot and delightfully peculiar Taiwanese drama. A crazy slashing incident with a giant sword in a mall may be the crux of the story, but the complexities to this single VR-motivated burst of violence reverberate through every frame of the non-linear narrative. Horny, bizarre, and strangely super-engaging, Terrorizers builds up a sadistic antihero, leaks a lesbian sex tape, and spreads its scandalous wings to the sky. I’m not sure I fully grasped everything that Ding Ho was trying to accomplish with this film, and I damn well had a great time watching it regardless.

TO KILL THE BEAST

(Written by Allison Brown) After watching To Kill the Beast, I never want to hear techno music, or anything adjacent, again. I found the soundtrack, including a bizarre dance rendition of Ave Maria, to be grating. This lo-fi quality music is overlaid with gunshots, screaming mobs, and random animal noises (perhaps evoked to allude to the illusive beast). The sound design is almost always incongruent to the scene at hand, and extraordinarily unpleasant. It seems to serve to drown out traumatic surroundings and numb reality. Far too many scenes reveal a woman aimlessly dancing, and perhaps I am not sophisticated enough to understand the message, but it was lost on me. There are a large number of exploitative shots with the lead, Emilia (Tamara Rocca), just sitting and chatting in nothing but a bra. Aunt Inés (Ana Brun) is obnoxious and incredibly unsympathetic to Emilia, who only just lost her mother; I could not stand her character. No one in the family even seems to remotely like one other, aside from Emilia and her brother, Matteo. She describes him in a harsh manner, but then spends the entire runtime looking for him and constantly calling his house. This plot is the only genuine one in the film, and it is not even resolved. The subplot of an ominous beast is barely there, aside from a cult-like scene forming a mob in the forest, where a leader mentions “our daughters are in danger.” Who’s to say that their daughters can’t protect themselves? How about their sons? Despite a female director (Agustina San Martín), To Kill the Beast feels very sexist. There is an omnipresence of plastic-wrapped furniture in Aunt Inés’ home, including a photograph of Elvis. I assume this serves a metaphorical purpose, but I am not clear on the intention. This metaphor later advances when Emilia covers her face in bubble wrap in a horrifying visual that looks nearly suicidal. Casual animals, including two roaming sheep, are so random that they are nearly comical. Lingering scenic views of the town and greenery with heavily muffled music were not pretty, they were just uncomfortable. Acting is fine and the imagery is definitely artistic enough, but this one seemed more concerned with offering up random imagery and insufferable music repetition than telling any semblance of a narrative.

TRUE THINGS

The approach behind True Things (examining a toxic relationship through a female perspective) may be admirable indeed, but this is a film that tends to trip over its own metaphorical footing. Ruth Wilson, who also produces, is good as Kate despite the character’s inherent baked-in unlikable qualities. Tom Burke plays Blondy, the dirty stranger who implants himself in Kate’s life, and brings with him a litany of issues. The dialogue is too straightforward to form the identities beyond mere stereotypes. There is barely anything to this film at all beyond countless sex scenes; beginning with Kate being orally pleasured sets the tone for meandering through Kate’s sexual exploits. Pretentious sexually-charged dramas may be the bread and butter of many a festival, and in that vein, perhaps there is an audience out there who will love True Things.

WHERE IS ANNE FRANK

I honestly was excited for Where is Anne Frank, the second animated film at TIFF that deals with World War II and the awful Nazi regime. Frank’s real story is one of incredible courage and deeply tragic sadness. While Charlotte focused on a very intimate and human story during this time period, Anne Frank instead shifts to modern day, where Anne’s imaginary best friend Kitty comes to life magically birthed from her literal diaries. The animation is perfectly splendid—literally everything else about the production is questionable at best. This movie is very much strictly for kids, and almost feels like a piece of made-for-TV propaganda afraid to dive deep into the larger horrors and injustices. The closest thing we get to any real dramatic heft is in the summarizing of Frank’s horribly depressing final days. However, even this is marred by showing Frank traveling through the underworld with her mother. There is no reason to have fart jokes in a movie dealing with topics this heavy. The attempts to tie in modern-day immigration are clumsy at best. Was I supposed to care about Kitty’s love story? Even this aspect is half-baked, going into full Frosty the Snowman mode by the end. I would say maybe kids will enjoy this, though it is hard to gauge whether even they would be ambivalent towards this tonally-confused animated nightmare.

Previously Viewed

BERGMAN ISLAND

Full review at the link.

I’M YOUR MAN

Full review at the link.

MEDUSA

Full review at the link.

VIOLET

Full review at the link.

Josh’s Ten Favorite Films

Allison’s Ten Favorite Films

Overall, TIFF was a total pleasure to cover! The Eyes of Tammy Faye fully impressed both of us, and we foresee potential awards consideration (especially for Jessica Chastain). It is not often that Allison and I mutually agree on a single best film at a fest. For more information about the festival and a complete list of this year’s lineup, you can visit the TIFF website.

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