Heal the Living (TIFF)

Heal the Living (TIFF)

Because the Toronto International Film Festival offers nearly 300 feature films within a concentrated 11-day span, it’s impossible to view more than a fraction of the free-wheeling, there-has-to-be-something-for-everyone event. That said, over the course of a week, I watched nearly 40 films, not counting the nearly two dozen movies seen earlier, mostly at Cannes. So, having viewed roughly 20 percent of what Toronto has to offer, here’s a sliver of what to anticipate afterward (though there are many left to see, as a few high-profile films don’t appear on this list):

Most recommended upcoming releases:

The best films that don’t have North American distribution thus far and for festivalgoers to look out for:

  • Barakah Meets Barakah, a social comedy/romance from Saudi Arabia (review)
  • Heal the Living, a low-key, beautifully-filmed drama of death and second chances, starring an all-star French-language cast
  • In Between, three single Palestinian women living together in the big city, Tel Aviv
  • Karl Marx City, a documentary that journeys back to the surveillance state of East Germany as its co-director investigates whether her father was an informer for the state
  • The Rehearsal, an absorbing adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s debut novel, brilliantly acted by a young cast
  • The War Show, a remarkable documentary of the Syrian civil war, told through the on-the-scene footage of a close-knit group of activists
  • White Sun, from Nepal, a family drama and a microcosm of the country, post-civil war

Best director:

  • Maren Ade: Toni Erdmann
  • Damien Chazelle: La La Land
  • Ken Loach, I, Daniel Blake
  • Jim Jarmusch: Paterson
  • Paul Verhoeven: Elle
  • Denis Villeneuve: Arrival
  • Thomas Vinterberg: The Commune (review)
  • Johnny Ma: Old Stone
A scene from Home (TIFF)

A scene from Home (TIFF)

Noteworthy new filmmaker:

  • Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon: The War Show
  • Johnny Ma: Old Stone, which proves the film noir lives on (and takes place in China)
  • William Oldroyd: Lady Macbeth, a lean adaptation of the novel by Nikolai Leskov, featuring one of the coldest, most calculating female antagonists in years
  • Fien Troch: Home, a daring Belgian film of sex, drugs, and smartphones, and where teens and their parents fall under the camera’s scrutiny

Best actress:

  • Amy Adams in Arrival
  • Trine Dyrholm in The Commune
  • Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann
  • Natalie Portman in Jackie
  • Florence Pugh in Lady Macbeth
  • Emma Stone in La La Land

Best actor:

  • Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
  • Hisham Fageeh as the aw-shucks single Saudi Arabian looking for a girlfriend in Barakah Meets Barakah
  • Chen Gang in Old Stone, as a Good Samaritan who gets screwed
  • Jason Sudeikis in Colossal—an average Joe-turned-psychopath
  • Ryan Gosling in La La Land

Best ensemble:

  • Heal the Living
  • In Between
  • La La Land
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Toni Erdmann

Best screenplay:

  • Arrival
  • Elle
  • Heal the Living
  • Old Stone
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Toni Erdmann

Best documentary:

  • Karl Marx City
  • The War Show

The best scenes:

  • The waterfall encounter between Paterson (Adam Driver) and a Japanese tourist in Paterson
  • Michelle Williams’s character’s apology in Manchester by the Sea
  • The date at the Griffith Observatory in La La Land
  • The climactic, bloody showdown in Old Stone

Best opening sequences:

  • The unforgettable opening credits in Nocturnal Animals
  • Surfing at dawn in Heal the Living

The Erin Brockovich crusader award:

  • Actress Sidse Babett Knudsen in 150 Milligrams, based on a real-life doctor, Irène Frachon, who took on French Big Pharma, and without a push-up bra

Best cameo:

  • Andy Warhol (Rhys Bevan-John) as a spirit animal in the 1970s-set, Canadian coming-of-ager Weirdos

The Kama Sutra prize:

  • Clair Obscur, the most sexually explicit film I’ve seen from Turkey

Most moving film

  • Heal the Living

Biggest disappointments:

  • Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford’s second feature film, in which the art direction and cinematography outweigh the direction and script
  • The scattershot Planetarium, starring Natalie Portman, though set in the fascinating time period of late 1930s France