Ten to remember from TIFF17

The Florida Project

Courtesy of TIFF


The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sunday (September 17), when TIFF presents its People’s Choice Award. However, my festival experience is over. That’s OK; by the time I left TIFF late Sunday night, I was babbling incoherently about escalators and queues.


I found TIFF17 to be rather extraordinary, and the ten films I mention below rank as my personal favorites. But there were many others that stand out. Missing the top ten but certainly on my list of TIFF pleasures were Darkest Hour, Molly’s Game, Downsizing, Miami, and Porcupine Lake. My Days of Mercy was beautifully acted (by Ellen Page and Kate Mara) but otherwise unexceptional, while The Crescent was visually gorgeous but rather silly. Mary Shelley and Euphoria were disappointments, although certainly not unwatchable. In fact, the only TIFF17 entry I saw and truly despised was George Clooney’s Suburbicon.


Now, my favorites. Bear in mind that a number of major entries screened after I was back in Buffalo. Sadly, I missed Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water, James Franco’s Disaster Artist, and the Tragically Hip documentary Long Time Running, among others. Note also that I purposely skipped films I knew were opening soon nationwide (including Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, Emma Stone vehicle Battle of the Sexes, and Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Stronger) or coming soon to Netflix (Mudbound and First They Killed My Father).


OK, NOW back to my favorites!


10. The Square

The Palme d’Or winner at Cannes confounded me more than any other film at the festival. The art world satire from Ruben Östlund is undeniably entertaining, yet also overlong, overindulgent, over-everything. And for that, I must applaud.


9. Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The reaction to Denzel Washington’s offbeat legal drama was very mixed. But I found plenty to enjoy in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler follow-up, specifically the most unique Washington performance in years.


8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos follows up The Lobster with even darker fare. This difficult-to-watch horror film starring an ultra-bearded Colin Farrell stays with you.


7. Happy End

I had no idea Michael Haneke’s latest would be so, well, funny. It’s his wittiest film to date, and features a wonderful performance from young star Fantine Harduin.


6. Mademoiselle Paradis

Barbara Albert’s film blind pianist Maria Theresia von Paradis was my favorite entry in TIFF’s Platform program.


5. Loveless

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan was a dark stunner at the 2014 festival. This tale of a couple on the verge of divorce and their neglected son is even darker, and even more moving.


4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand gives one of the year’s great performances as a mother seeking justice for her late daughter. Sharp, funny, and full of twists, this is Martin McDonagh’s best film since In Bruges.


3. Call Me By Your Name

You’ll be hearing about Luca Guadagnino’s lush romance all season long. Armie Hammer and ‎Timothée Chalamet are perfect as a twentysomething and a seventeen-year-old who fall for each other, hard, during a summer in Italy.


2. Lady Bird

A gloriously entertaining coming-of-age drama written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird is a film to be adored. Saoirse Ronan stars as a Catholic school teen struggling through her senior year.


1. The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s latest is, in a word, enchanting. A mother and daughter navigate a summer at a shoddy motel in Orlando, while a kind-hearted manager (played by an Oscar-worthy Willem Dafoe) attempts to keep them in line. The Florida Project was the freshest, most exhilarating film of TIFF17.


One last note: The three most likely choices for the People’s Choice Award are Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Battle of the Sexes. Since Lady Bird was the only one of those three that I saw, let’s run with that. It’s my predicted winner this Sunday.


Christopher Schobert is a film critic for the Buffalo News and other outlets. Watch for his festival overview in the November issue of Buffalo Spree, and catch up with more of his TIFF17 coverage at TheFilmStage.com, ThePlaylist.net, and on his blog, FilmSwoon.com


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