A guide to the highlights of this year’s TIFF
Nicholas Poulimenakos CONTRIBUTOR
Photo: A Star is Born. TIFF Press Centre.
The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has come and gone, but this year’s festival showcased some truly spectacular films. The biggest festival of its nature in North America has established itself as one of the major highlights of the movie-going calendar and has become a definite forerunner for awards season. TIFF welcomed films of all kinds from across the globe, but now that the dust has settled, who emerged at the top of the pack? Read on to see The Mike’s picks for TIFF 2018’s five best films!
Just before it premiered to Toronto audiences, director Alfonso Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical drama Roma won the Venice Film Festival’s top prize — the Golden Lion. The Netflix feature found comparable levels of eagerness from TIFF critics, with the black-and-white drama inspired by Cuarón’s own childhood being named a runner-up in the festival’s Grolsch People’s Choice Awards. Cuarón wrote, directed, and acted as cinematographer for Roma, and the film was clearly Netflix’s standout at the festival, signalling Netflix’s breakthrough to the path of Hollywood legitimacy as it stakes its claim for the 2019 Academy Awards.
4. A Star Is Born
Not only was it one of the most talked about films at the festival, it also went on to become one of the most acclaimed. Bradley Cooper’s reboot of the classic Hollywood story, A Star Is Born, came to TIFF straight off a surreal debut at the Venice Film Festival. Arriving in Toronto, the film proved to be enticing to many and cemented Cooper’s standing as a versatile actor and an aspiring director. The film’s true star, however, proved to be Lady Gaga, who garnered universal acclaim in her debut role, with some critics calling for an Oscar nomination. The chemistry between the two leads is unimpeachable, and the way Cooper and his writers translated the natural emotions encompassed through each character onto the screen is incredible. 2018’s A Star Is Born is clearly the best of the story’s cinematic adaptations and offers an intense emotional journey from start to finish.
Widows marks 12 Years a Slave-director Steve McQueen’s first film in five years. The film, which he co-wrote with Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn, is a psychosomatically multifaceted thriller that balances several genre elements with a beautifully fleshed out cast. It is a film that is in no way lacking action and brutal violence, but where McQueen’s feature shines is through its titular widows, who suffer deep emotional turmoil but set out on the film’s voyage together. With themes of loss, treachery, and consequence being prevalent throughout, the film builds upon layer after layer, exploiting the heist genre as a way to deeply observe fragmented relationships. McQueen created a film in Widows that illustrates why movie-goers fell in love with thrillers, but also manages to subvert expectations, allowing for the story to evolve beyond what audiences expect to see.
2. First Man
From director Damien Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer comes the biopic for the man who embarked on the most dangerous mission in human history — Neil Armstrong. What makes this film stand apart from the rest is that it is less concerned with delivering a heroic portrayal of the 1969 moon landing and instead chronicles the tale of the man the way he saw himself. Going to the moon was not glamourous. Chazelle viciously showcases the horrors that came with the USA taking on this mission, drawing attention to how Neil often had to deal with friends dying at the hands of NASA’s trials. While the audience already knows the film’s ending, Chazelle is constantly pushing the envelope, forcing you to ask, “Was it worth it?” In the eyes of Neil, who accomplished the mission, yes it was — it was a defining and beautiful moment in Earth’s history. We see that America did land on the moon, but First Man makes sure that we respect the journey it took to get there.
1. Beautiful Boy
Without a doubt my favourite film from TIFF, Beautiful Boy is both a heartbreaking and imperative viewing experience. Chronicling the life of a meth addict and the impact it has on his family, the film acts as a message to all who are suffering: you are not alone. There are moments when you sympathize with both Nic (the addict) and his father David, who wants only to help his son through this pain. This is a story that transcends cinema, achieving a truly relatable feeling. At some point in most people’s lives, they will experience the power of addiction and Beautiful Boy does not shy away from anything. With powerful performances, incredible set design, and a story that will tug on every heartstring, Beautiful Boy ranks as the best film to come out of TIFF 2018.