I had just returned to the theatre this past weekend for the opening of Marvel’s SHANG CHI, starring the incredibly talented Canadian actor, Simu Liu. It felt really good to get back to something I truly love — the big screen. Hey, a Marvel movie is always better on a big screen, right? The theatre was thoroughly cleaned and we noticed the Cineplex VIP theatre was “sold out” of the designated seating. So, while we ease back in to things we enjoy doing, we are comforted in knowing that venues are adhering to protocols and doing their part in keeping our health and safety in mind. Now that I have had my first foray back into the movie theatre, I have this year’s Toronto International Film Festival on my mind.
Yes, we’re still trying to get through the pandemic but there are more options to enjoy any of the TIFF titles. In-person theatre screenings and some events will have limited tickets and will be socially distanced based on current guidelines (please check the site for what to expect before you book your tickets), there will also be drive-in theatre opportunities, as well as digital viewings. The full line up of films can be found at www.tiff.net
I’ve sifted through the list of films coming to this year’s TIFF (September 9 to 18) and here are the titles (along with a brief description as offered by TIFF) that I am hoping to catch…
DEAR EVAN HANSEN: Directed by Stephen Chbosky (USA).
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE: Directed by Michael Showater (USA)
DIONNE WARWICK: Don’t Make Me Over: Directed by Dave Wooley, David Heilbroner
A dazzling and mysterious film follows a woman who comes home from a psychiatric clinic after a bout with severe postpartum depression. Ecuadorian filmmaking team Javier Andrade and Anahí Hoeneisen return with a strong and carefully observed feature devoted to exploring the dark side of maternity, or, better yet, the ways in which performing our expected roles in society puts inordinate pressure on us.
A searing yet sensitive portrait of women enmeshed in a medical system that both misunderstands and fears them. The setting is late 19th-century France and the birth of psychiatry, but the resonances couldn’t be more contemporary. Eugénie Cléry (Lou de Laâge) is a young woman with a free spirit, an independent mind, and a quick tongue — qualities her father will not tolerate. Eugénie also has spectral encounters that leave her staring into space and gasping for breath. She is visited by the spirits of the dead. Alarmed by her visions, Eugénie’s family admits her to a neurological clinic in Paris’s Pitié-Salpêtrière overseen by Professor Jean-Martin Charcot (Grégoire Bonnet). The clinic is populated by women of all ages.
MARIA CHAPDELAINE: Directed by Sébastien Pilote (Quebec, Canada)
A teen in rural Quebec must decide her future by choosing one of three suitors, in Sébastien Pilote’s moving adaptation of Louis Hémon’s 1913 novel. The Chapdelaines live on a remote farm in northern Quebec in the early 1900s. Father Samuel (Sébastien Ricard) has little patience for society, moving when anyone comes too close, which has led to a strangely peripatetic existence for his long-suffering wife Laura (Hélène Florent) and their children. But as the film opens, some decisions are going to have to be made, most involving Maria (Sara Montpetit), who has reached marrying age. Three very different suitors have come forward, each representing a distinct path for Maria. Lorenzo Surprenant (Robert Naylor), who has taken a factory job in the US, offers Maria wealth and an escape from rural hardship. Shy and awkward Eutrope Gagnon (Antoine Olivier Pilon), the next-door neighbour and fellow homesteader who has loved Maria since they first met, will let her remain close to her family. Dashing logger François Paradis (Émile Schneider), meanwhile, seems to promise her the best of both worlds. Whom Maria chooses, and the factors influencing her, will have serious implications for her entire family.
THE STARLING: Theodore Melfi (USA)
SPENCER: Directed by Pablo Larraín (UK, Germany)
Kristen Stewart stars in Pablo Larraín’s haunting chamber drama that imagines a tumultuous Christmas in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. Starring Kristen Stewart, Spencer follows the Princess of Wales as she navigates a precarious Christmas holiday with the Royal Family at their Sandringham estate in Norfolk — a moment that will set Diana on a path to independence, however tragically short-lived. The Prince’s infidelities with Camilla Parker Bowles have become public knowledge. The fairy-tale façade of Charles and Diana’s marriage has crumbled. Arriving at Sandringham tardy and alone, Diana is expected to adhere to a series of soul-draining exercises in empty propriety, routinely changing outfits and posing for photos. She savours whatever hours she can secure with her sons, William and Harry, but her sole confidant is her personal attendant (Sally Hawkins). As Diana begins to disobey decorum, her every indulgence is tracked by a former Black Watch officer (Timothy Spall) newly employed by the Queen to keep paparazzi at bay — and the Princess on a tight leash.
THE GUILTY: Directed by Antoine Fuqua (USA)
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Antoine Fuqua’s thriller set over the course of a single morning in a 911 dispatch centre. As a wildfire rages towards Los Angeles, embittered police officer Joe Bayler (Gyllenhaal) winds down a chaotic but tedious shift answering emergency calls — a punitive demotion he received ahead of an imminent disciplinary hearing. His ennui is soon interrupted by a cryptic call from a woman (Riley Keough) who appears to be attempting to call her child, but is in fact discreetly reporting her own abduction. Working with the meagre clues she is able to provide, Joe throws all his skill and intuition towards ensuring her safety, but as the severity of the crime comes to light, Joe’s own psychological state begins to fray and he is forced to reconcile with demons of his own.
VIOLET: Directed by Justine Bateman (USA)
Olivia Munn stars in writer-director Justine Bateman’s feature debut, a formally daring, psychologically incisive portrait of a woman at a crossroads. A Los Angeles–based film executive, Violet (Olivia Munn) has worked arduously to gain status in an industry still dominated by older white men, often at the expense of her dignity and taste. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her relationship to her boss (Dennis Boutsikaris), who exerts his power by regularly humiliating her in front of clients. Violet presents as confident, chilly, even callous, but inside her a cauldron of desperate anxieties is on the brink of boiling over.
BELFAST: Directed by Kenneth Branagh (UK).
ALL MY PUNY SORROWS: Directed by Michael McGowan (Canada).
A moving adaptation of Miriam Toews’ beloved novel All My Puny Sorrows is propelled by nuanced direction, an affecting script, and a truly stellar, fearless cast. The story revolves around the women of the Von Riesen clan: writer Yoli (Alison Pill), who’s tormented by self-doubt and is going through a tough, protracted divorce; her sister Elf (Sarah Gadon), a well-known concert pianist whose bouts with depression threaten to consume her; their steadfast mother Lottie (Mare Winningham); their no-nonsense aunt Tina (Mimi Kuzyk); and Yoli’s precocious daughter Nora (Amybeth McNulty).
LAKEWOOD: Directed by Phillip Noyce (Canada)