For film lovers, the official start to Autumn begins not when the leaves hit the ground, but with the opening gala of the Toronto International Film Festival. And for those devout cinephiles, we have complied a list of our must-see films this TIFF season. Below, a collection of films that range from the heartbreakingly touching to the laugh out loud funny, a variety of features that we would bet please you, as well as they please the critics.
The Plot: A quirky — and historic — twist to gay pride, on the heels of last year’s dramatic Dallas Buyers Club, director Matthew Warchus’s Pride follows a group of gay and lesbian activists, who come together in support of miners and their families during the UK-wide strike in 1984. A funny and heartwarming story with an ensemble cast including Bill Nighy (About Time), Dominic West (The Hour), Faye Marsay (The White Queen) and Andrew Scott (Sherlock), the story follows the two groups as they discover that standing together makes the strongest union of all.
Why It’s On Our Watch List: Take the best of British comedy and mix it with an original story about gay rights and you know you’re going to be in for wit and knowledge. It’d do us all some good to learn something about how far we’ve all come since the 1980s on tolerance, acceptance and fashion.
The Plot: Director Isabel Coixet’s (My Life Without Me) reunites for round two with Patricia Clarkson (The East) and Sir Ben Kingsley (Ender’s Game), after directing the pair in 2008’s Elegy. This time around, Coixet takes Clarkson and Kingsley through Learning to Drive, the story of two people faced with the challenge of learning the art of communication, most importantly, communicating emotion. Clarkson plays Wendy, a woman seeking comfort in biweekly driving lessons after her husband leaves her, while Kingsley plans a Sikh leading the lessons.
An adaptation of Katha Pollitt’s 2002 essay for The New Yorker, the tale acts as a gentle reminder that two people can achieve intimacy even in the most unexpected of situations. In this highly observant, and often sweetly funny film, Coixet — a director with a gift at conveying quiet revelations — allows her dazzling cast the emotional breadth to move with the moment, and with this, Clarkson and Kingsley play every heart string in tune.
Why It’s On Our Watch List: You can be sure that an intelligent and witty story from a heavy-hitter like The New Yorker is going to be a dream on screen. It’s basically guaranteed to be loaded with insight, and discovering a story that honestly resonates with you, well that’s infinitely better than a lighthearted laugh any day.
The Plot: A compassionate and dramatic comedy about friendship and saying goodbye, The Farewell Party by directors Sharon Maymon (A Matter of Size), Tal Granit (Summer Vacation) doesn’t skirt around controversial issues. The story follows a group of seniors at a Jerusalem retirement home that build a machine for self-administered euthanasia in order to help one of their terminally ill friends. The story takes an interesting twist when rumors of the secret machine begin to spread and surprisingly more and more people ask for their help.
Why It’s On Our Watch List: Besides the gripping originality of the plot and unique twists and turns, it offers an empathetic perspective of a topic that has been judged rather than openly discussed. Whatever your views on the matter may be, The Farewell Party is a sound film that will provide insight into a hot-button issue, and inspire a laugh or two.
The Plot: Canadian wonder boy Xavier Dolan will present his fifth feature, Mommy, after receiving accolades for the film at Cannes earlier this year. At just 25-years-old, Dolan has already proven his cinematic maturity, earning a nomination for the Palme d’Or and winning the Jury Prize for Mommy, sharing the win with legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and his film Goodbye to Language. Starring Anne Dorval (Laurence Anyways), the story follows the life of a widowed mother (Dorval) overwhelmed by the task of raising her troubled teen, played brilliantly by Antoine Pilon.
Why It’s On Our Watch List: With the amount of success that Dolan has had (and with quite likely plenty more to come), we feel confident in counting on the fact that any film directed by Dolan is one not to miss. The way we see it, Mommy will be just one part of an entire library of canon classics some day.
Plot: Director Frederick Wiseman’s North American premiere of National Gallery takes TIFF audiences behind the scenes of London’s cherished National Gallery. A cultural and historic institution inhabited by great masterpieces of Western art dating back from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the The National Gallery is the subject of an open love letter in Wiseman’s latest film. Capturing a continuous array of storied works, the film paints an evocative portrait of the building, its treasures and the relationship the world has with each, while also sharing a glimpse at the staff that care for The National Gallery and the public that adore it.
Why It’s On Our Watch List: Knowing Wiseman’s previous documentaries Crazy Horse and At Berkeley, this is no doubt a guaranteed cinematic stroke of genius. Trust us. Packed full of beautiful images of a world truly unknown, it offers a unique perspective on a incredible institution never before seen from the inside out.Published September 3, 2014