From a black-and-white semi-memoir from Kenneth Branagh to an African drama about women’s rights — these were the TIFF films that had us buzzing throughout the fest
Ali & AvaHe’s a British-Pakistani landlord and diehard music lover who still dreams of being a D.J. She’s an Irish widow living in Yorkshire who works as a teacher — “a classroom assistant,” technically — trying to raise two kids. Romance isn’t exactly the first thing on either of their minds, and both carry a lot of baggage from previous relationships. Yet this affectionate look at love in a northern England working-class community, courtesy of filmmaker Clio Barnard (
The Arbor), is generous enough to give these people a chance at happiness despite the odds stacked against them. Miserablism isn’t on the menu, though the film doesn’t play down the external problems each character faces in their day-to-day existence either. And you couldn’t ask for a better showcase for Adeel Akhtar and Claire Westbrook, two veteran British character actors who get the spotlight they deserve here.
Rob YoungsonBelfastIt’s 1969, sectarian violence is raging in North Ireland, and 10-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) is watching his neighborhood literally go up in flames. His grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Dame Judi Dench) offer kindness and counsel as he tries to negotiate a childhood interrupted by social tension, soldiers and uprisings. His parents (Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan) know that the only way forward is out. headtopics.com
Kenneth Branagh’s black-and-white drama doesn’t just take on the Troubles in a way that feels personal — his semi-autobiographical memory piece is the strongest movie he’s made in decades, with an incredible feel for viewing history through the innocent eyes of a kid
andthe hard-won wisdom of an adult revisiting a pivotal moment in his past. Don’t look back in anger, indeed.1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All rightBenedictionEven by the high standards of Terence Davies’ impressive body of work, this biopic of WWI veteran and poet Siegfried Sassoon stand out as something unique in the filmmaker’s 45-year career: a seamless blend of historical drama, literary memoir, queer desire, quiet passion and raging anger at the senseless loss of an entire generation of men. The acting is first-rate (especially Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi as younger/older versions of Sassoon, and Ben Daniels as a sympathetic doctor). The wit is scathing, even as tragedy hovers constantly in the background — imagine
The Guns of Augustrewritten by Oscar Wilde. And the final shot, in which a lifetime’s worth of sorrow and trauma suddenly hit with the hurricane, will knock the wind out of you.1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All rightCompartment No. 6The co-winner of the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes (it shared the runner-up award with Asghar Farhadi’s
A Hero,which was also at TIFF), Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s road movie pairs a heartbroken student (Seidi Haarla) and a boorish Russian knucklehead (Yuriy Borisov) as they share a tiny train compartment. She’s heading to Murmansk, located near the Arctic Circle, to see some ancient cave paintings. He’s going nowhere, fast. Thanks to circumstance, vodka and some unexpected detours, these two traveling companions slowly come around to enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company. A low-key gem, and one that recasts headtopics.com
as the perfect pop-existentialist soundtrack cut.1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All rightDrive My CarJapan’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) returns with yet another marathon-length masterpiece — a three-hour-plus adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story about a theater director (Hidetoshi Nishijima) staging an international, multilingual production of Chekhov’s
Uncle Vanyain Hiroshima. The gentleman has a storied history with the play as an actor, as well as a connection to one of the cast: a prettyboy television star (Masaki Okada) who once worked with the director’s wife. He’s also reluctantly assigned a driver, a young woman (Tôko Miura) with her own crosses to bear. The long scenes of actors poring through a dramatic text, and how the dynamics of the work began to reflect on the dynamics of its interpreters, initially brings to mind a less paranoid version of a Jacques Rivette movie. But Hamaguchi’s take on art, life, loss, healing and forgiveness is its own beast, and one of the richest, most rewarding examples of how to turn simple human interactions into compelling cinema.
Courtesy of TIFFThe Humans Read more: Rolling Stone »
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