Laurence Anyways | Xavier Dolan, Canada

Quebec golden boy, Xavier Dolan, is back this festival with a brilliant follow up to his 2010 critically acclaimed feature, Les Amours Imaginaires. The story of a married man’s transgender transformation, Laurence Anyways traces the fallout of Laurence’s (Melvil Poupaud) realization he is in fact a women in a man’s body, and the affect this conclusion has on his wife, Fred (Suzanne Clément). Alterations in Laurence’s life begin with pencil skirts and flamboyant scarves, and end in harrowing clashes against social expectations, challenging his individuality, and the bonds he shares with those closest to him.

Liverpool | Manon Briand, Canada

After a 10 year break from feature film directing, Manon Briand arrives at TIFF 2012 with Liverpool, an artistic romantic thriller that demands the spotlight. Centred around a coat check girl named Emily (Stéphanie Lapointe), chaos tangles the story’s heroine into its web, when her duty to return a coat to its owner, lands her in the middle of a criminal conspiracy. Help comes in the form of Thomas (Charles-Alexandre Dubé), a regular at the bar so taken with Emily, he will do anything possible to keep her out of harm’s way. Set in the 1960s, the vintage setting, and Lapointe’s on screen charisma adds an effortless cool charm to the film.

Stories We Tell | Sarah Polley, Canada

Canadian film darling, Oscar-nominated director Sarah Polley’s tries her hand at documentaries with this year’s TIFF selection, Stories We Tell. “An exploration of the elusive nature of truth and memory,” Polley delves into the supposed collective conscience of a family, only to discover the same question posed to different family members, does not always command the same answer. A clever and playful exploration of selective memory and the anatomy of a family, the audience meets the film’s subjects in speeches laid over top archival clips from their lives. This one is sure to leave you reflecting on your own family and its varied past.

My Awkward Sexual Adventure | Sean Garrity, Canada

Sean Garrity’s sex comedy My Awkward Sexual Adventure is exactly that: awkward, but in the most entertaining of ways. Jonas Chernick plays the poor-lover, Jordan Abrams, who is turned-down by his girlfriend when he proposes. Deflated, Jordan decides to turn his sex life around, and enlists Julia, a free-spirited stripper (Emily Hampshire), to give him “lessons” on how to be a superior lover. With debt to pay, Julia excepts and leads Jordan into a new world. The question is, will Jordan’s newfound confidence in bed, win back his ex-girlfriend? The laughs are in Jordan’s clumsy journey to the final answer.

I Declare War | Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, Canada

Blood, guns and bullies. I Declare War is a gripping, sometimes jarring depiction of a band of young boys who savagely fighting against one another. What starts out as an innocent game of capture the flag, ends in a war of fake blood and prisoners. I Declare War embraces archetypal motifs found in coming of age narratives such as Lord of the Flies, with a sense of brotherhood and betrayal that call upon Stand by Me and the Hunger Games respectively. Unease washes over you as you watch the children hypnotized by their fantasy game of war; as the actions draws you deeper into the boys psyche, the realization of their logic forces one to contemplate the Darwinian games of survival that penetrate modern day society.

Argo | Ben Affleck, United States

Ben Affleck is behind the camera once again, and this time, it’s political. Tagged as a “a declassified true story” Argo is based on the creative cover-up plan to retrieve six Americans held in Tehran after the 1979 invasion of the American embassy. Featuring a cast led by Affleck in the role of Tony Mendez, a CIA technical operations officer leading the effort to smuggle out the hostages, the narrative action begins with Mendez’s CIA team pretending to be a part of a Hollywood film crew, a game of dress up that requires more than a little attention to detail. While the premise of the film is heavy, Argo lightens the mood with comedic relief generously peppered through the script. A story you won’t believe is true, this one has a plot that will hold you captive till the end credits.

Silver Linings Playbook | David O. Russell, United States

A dramedy for the Xanax age, Silver Linings Playbook takes their all-star cast inside the politics of family and “normal” society, and comes out the other end with a compassionate and witty narrative on the trials of depression. Bradley Cooper feeds into generational pains as Pat Solinto, a former teacher with anger issues recently released from four years in a mental institution. Recouping at home with his parents including his not-so-warm-and-fuzzy father, played by Robert De Niro, his mad hatter hat is knocked off when Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) comes over for dinner one night. Seemingly as or more insane than Pat, the two connect over challenging one another’s inner and outer crazy, and in the process begin healing old wounds.

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