TIFF 2014: Day Six

Our postcard dispatches form the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival for Tuesday, September 9.

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A Second Chance

Dear TIFF,

Susanne Bier's A Second Chance was perhaps a bleak choice to kick off my TIFF 2014 selections, but it set the bar pretty high. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays a policeman who does something drastic and inadvisable when tragedy strikes at home. Though my viewing companion was desperate for even a few moments of levity, I was waiting for the film to veer off into overwrought melodrama which, thankfully, it didn't.

Any story centered upon the endangerment or harming of children elicits an intensely visceral response, with little room or patience for nuance. Care is taken to present the character's actions while underscoring their vulnerabilities, commanding compassion from the viewer rather than revulsion. Full credit goes to Bier for the restraint and sensitivity with which she treats the subject and her characters.

Best,

Nat

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Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

Dear TIFF,

The idea of an animated feature based on The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran's collection of poetic essays, was enough to spark my curiosity while selecting my festival fare this year. Though a few lines and passages from the book have stayed with me over the years, I'm not really one for poetry. It doesn't 'come alive' for me very easily. But today was the exception.

Part poetry reading, part art gallery tour, part Yo Yo Ma concert, the film compiles chapters from the book into animated segments, each rendered by different artists. All of this is framed around the central narrative of a young girl who befriends a poet and political prisoner. That said poet is voiced by Liam Neeson was, admittedly, another huge draw for me.

Gibran's text leaps to life in vivid colour, and my concern of too many things being attempted at once was soon forgotten. I realized it was best to simply succumb to the film's interweaving elements, absorb the richness of the imagery and sound, and process it all afterwards. Although the main narrative is initially weak compared to the individual segments, it builds into a thoroughly moving conclusion, leaving me, admittedly, a little teary-eyed as I emerged from the theatre.

Also, if you happen to know who I need bribe to get Liam Neeson to come to my house and read me poetry, please, hook a girl up.

Best,

Nat

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Manglehorn

Dear TIFF,

This might not be fair, but I'm getting a bit tired of all the gloomy character dramas dominating this year's line-up. I understand why actors are drawn to stories that prioritize the "who" of a story over the "what", but as an audience member, I'm starting to crave a good, juicy, vigorous plot. Sadly, that's not the case with Manglehorn.

David Gordon Green has made a return to the serious side of things with a movie about an old curmudgeon forced to soften up in his twilight years ( sound familiar?). He's a romantic who can't get over a lost love. So much so that he's completely oblivious to the charms of the new woman in his life, played by Holly Hunter. The film is small in scale, but not without some charming moments (like a spontaneous musical outburst in a bank), and one strangely ambitious transition shot of a highway traffic pile-up (which probably cost the film half its budget). But aside from these nice flourishes, there's not a whole lot to get excited about—with the exception of Holly Hunter, of course, who the festival (and the world) can always use a little more of.

Sincerely,

Christopher

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Nightcrawler

Dear TIFF,

That first clap you heard when the screening was over? That was me. And the sigh of relief right afterwards? That was me, too. I was waiting to find the film at this year's festival that I'd flip over, and I finally did.

Fearless and fascinating characters, a gripping plot, biting satire, a wicked sense of humor—Nightcrawler almost feels like this year's Spring Breakers ( high praise, indeed).

From the opening scene, Dan Gilroy, in his directorial debut, makes a statement that anything can and will happen. Jake Gyllenhaal takes his creepiness to just the right places in this film about a man who's looking for a job – any job, really – that will suit his yet-to-be-defined skills and bald-faced ambition. Needless to say, he finds something he's rather perfect for. My spoiler-phobic instincts allowed me to experience every moment with complete surprise, and I was swept away by the excitement. Now I'm turning all my enthusiasm into word-of-mouth buzz, so people can hopefully avoid the terribly revealing trailer for a film that goes way-too-deep into the third act.

People should just trust me – and you – and check out this film.

Sincerely,

Christopher

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