The first day of the Toronto International Film Festival has completed, but we are still on the ground in Day 2 catching as many possible films as we can to bring you up to date coverage of what we’ve seen. Some of these films will get full reviews closer to their release or after we return from the Festival and get some much needed sleep, something that is rather scarce amid the abundance of cinema on display. We can’t catch em all, but here is a quick recap of some films we were able to catch in our first few days at TIFF!
“Anatomy of a Fall”
One of the most highly anticipated films of the Festival, “Anatomy of a Fall” is a riveting courtroom drama that purposely leaves the interpretation of events up to the audience and is more about the dissolving of a marriage and the exploration of family dynamics exposed in a trial setting. The way the events unfold continually re-contextualize each and every character and motivation. Gripping and wonderfully crafted, Sandra Hüller gives one of the best performances of the year, and the screenplay is masterfully crafted; so much so that it leaves the entirety of interpretation of events up the the viewer themselves. It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you use the evidence presented to make a decision. “Anatomy of a Fall” is a special sort of film, one that uses the courtroom drama tropes to its advantages and utilizes its craft to keep you guessing and leave you unsure throughout its entirety. Also, we will never ever listen to “P.I.M.P” by 50 Cent the same way ever again.
“The Zone of Interest”
Part of the press double feature scramble, in which both “Anatomy of a Fall” and “Zone of Interest” played within 15 minutes of each other and most viewers desperate to see both, the latter is unlike any holocaust movie you’ve ever seen. Impossible to describe but impossible to forget, Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” is certainly something to ponder and will probably not be for everyone. A very abstract, fly on the wall kind of film that examines the ambivalence of atrocity and horrors of the Holocaust without ever explicitly resorting to showing the audience. It makes some really bold, confident and sometimes confusing choices that don’t always work but never falters in being an experience unlike anything you’ve seen to date in cinema. “The Zone of Interest” is a film that may require two viewings; one to understand what the film actually is, and another to understand what the film actually means. This is one gonna stick with us for a while.
Who would’ve thought cleaning toilets in Japan would be so interesting? Wim Wenders “Perfect Days” is Japan’s selection for Best International Feature for the Oscars this year, and at its core is a beautiful character study about being content, giving, and becoming. You would not expect a film about toilet cleaning to pack as much depth into its repetitive and simple premise, but it manages to be pretty emotionally affecting as we dive deeper into the character. There are some unanswered questions, and we didn’t find it as captivating as the selection and prestige would suggest. That may have been attributed to it being a rather slow, quiet drama with a near silent protagonist on the heels of 6:00am start time for us, but while “Perfect Days” certainly has something to say beneath its mundane, day in the life exposition, but can’t quite get it all out in a cohesive narrative to warrant seeing it through to its rather long runtime ending.
“How To Have Sex”
This very well may be our favorite film of the festival so far. And before you even ask, no. “How to Have Sex” is not an instruction sex ed video or porn. The film is much deeper than that, one that exposes the harrowing and visceral reality of sexual assault and consent told through a 4 day alcohol fueled, non stop party holiday. “How to Have Sex” is all fun and games until the fun and games are over. Molly Manning Walker’s bold debut takes big swings and delivers a manic, controlled chaos of self discovery through the world of partying. Walker is confident in her choices, and knows how to turn up the heat and turn off the lights when needed. Powered by a terrific, committed performance from Mia McKenna-Bruce, “How to Have Sex” has a lot to say under its alcohol infused, pulse pounding club framework, and is sure to stick with you long after the club lights turn on it’s time to go home.The film has not left our brain since we saw it, and continually conjures new discourse and re-contextualization about its themes and subject matter. There is so much to unpack once the core of itself is revealed. Walker has crafted a deeply layered, unsettling, devastating film that lures you in with strobe lights then punches you in the gut with unexpected power.
A last minute addition to our schedule, “Sleep” ended up being a rather welcomed one and helluva way to start the day. A gripping, haunting and tense ghost story that thrills and chills almost immediately and never lets up. A decent into madness as a couple wrestles with the unexplainable and events that continue to escalate. This is simplicity done well, and Jason Yu seems to understand the value of how to operate completely within the genre and its tropes while remaining inventive and exciting. “Sleep” doesn’t really invent the wheel from a brass tacks standpoint, but is executed so well and utilizes its unsettling atmosphere that it still manages to be highly effective. “Sleep” will have you question every time your loved one sleep talks or sleep walks, but will also have you wanting to tackle the world together with them in spite of the horror. “Sleep” is a reminder that South Korean horror continues to be unrivaled, and a new voice has emerged.
“Days of Happiness”
Though it overstays its welcome “Days of Happiness” is a powerful story of reclamation and discovery of oneself from the grip of abuse and toxic patriarchy. It’s classical musical setting has tinges of TAR, but differs in that Emma (a mesmerizing Sophie Desmarais) isn’t the monster and is searching for purpose inside of her talent and passion rather than using it as a way to manipulate others. “Days of Happiness” does manage to distance itself enough from that predecessor to truly feel like its own thing despite the obvious similarities, and would be wrongly dismissed as a derivative attempt by doing so. The abuse portrayed is palpable even when it’s not overt, and the sharp writing allows for the moments of gaslighting and victim blaming and verbal manipulation to be shocking, visceral and uncomfortable. More humor than you’d expect, “Days of Happiness” has a satisfying payoff that delivers on the emotional investment in the film’s titular character.
That’s what we’ve seen so far! Stay tuned for many, MANY more films on the way!