This was my first time attending TIFF in person in 3 years. It was a little exhausting, given how far out of downtown we now live but, once I got the hang of it, I fell back into the rhythm of it and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It also helped that, after a few movies that were only okay, we saw some pretty good ones in a row.
Here are the ten movies I saw this year:
Holy Spider, directed by Ali Abbasi (9/10)
A fairly conventional serial killer film for most of its runtime, made unique by its setting in turn-of-the-millennium Iran and the unconventional ending.
The best film I saw at TIFF this year. Read the review of Holy Spider.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, directed by Laura Poitras (8/10)
This is a compelling documentary about the photographer Nan Goldin through the lens of her attempts to get museums to remove the Sackler family name from their galleries because of their responsibility in the opioid crisis.
Triangle of Sadness, directed by Ruben Östlund (8/10)
This Palme d’Or winner is extremely entertaining and funny, much more so than your average winner. It’s overlong and not remotely subtle, but you will have a good time. Like the ending, too.
The Banshees of Inisherin, directed by Martin McDonagh (7/10)
A very funny comedy that takes a turn into tragedy at the very end. Best understood, I think, as an allegory. Still, I’m not 100% sold on the tonal shift.
R.M.N., directed by Cristian Mungiu (7/10)
Mungiu’s latest is a portrait of a small town in Romania gripped by xenophobia, perhaps as a bit of allegory for eastern Europe as a whole. (Mungiu made 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days aka “The Romanian Abortion Movie.”) There is this one incredible long take of a town hall meeting which is worth the price of admission alone. But I found the bears to be extremely confusing. Also, it’s a little long.
Free Money, directed by Lauren DeFilippo, Sam Soko (6/10)
This is about one of GiveDirectly’s UBI experiments in a village in Kenya. It’s not in-depth enough both in terms of the results and the criticisms. But I still enjoyed it, in part because I drink UBI Kool-Aid.
Emily, directed by Frances O’Connor (6/10)
This is a fantastical biopic of Emily Bronte, which is more entertaining than you would expect (given the subject matter) but which is overlong.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, directed by Aitch Alberto (5/10)
We didn’t realize this was based on a YA novel. It is an extremely YA story, basically a wish-fulfilment fantasy rather than a true coming of age story. Some severe manic pixie dream boy here with one of the two main characters. Decent debut for the director but the story isn’t believable.
Project Wolf Hunting, directed by Hong-Sung Kim (5/10)
A ridiculous, bloody but entertaining action/horror film about a ship full of prisoners travelling from the Philippines to Korea. Not for the faint of heart but fun if you like this stuff. Also, if you think about it too much, it falls apart.
Chevalier, directed by Stephen Williams (4/10)
A ridiculous, silly movie which completely misses the mark as a biopic about an extremely interesting historical figure, probably the first ever black composer of European high art music.