The Toronto International Film Festival is currently in full swing, bringing together the best in the best of films from around the world. I travelled to TIFF again this year via the most terrifying, bumpy plane ride you can imagine. I nearly had ten heart attacks, but I’m committed to seeing great movies, damn it. Here’s a look at some of the things I was lucky enough to see.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: Luca Guadagnino’s lush, extraordinary adaptation of André Aciman’s novel follows 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who falls in love with his Oliver (Armie Hammer), an older man who’s come to stay the summer at Elio’s family’s Italian villa. Guadagnino captures the feel of a lazy, romantic summer perfectly, from the sudden thunderstorms to the sounds of incest wiring in the trees. Chalamet and Hammer are magnificent, both playing their attraction to one another perfectly. The real stand-out here though is Michael Stuhlbarg, as Elio’s father. Near the film’s end, Stuhlbarg gives a speech about attraction and romance that’s so warm and accepting that it will take your breath away.
MOTHER!: Darren Aronofsky lays it on thick with this psychological mind-fuck. Jennifer Lawrence is a young woman who lives to love her older husband, played by a frowning Javier Bardem. Lawrence and Bardem’s lives seem rather tranquil, but when two uninvited house guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) show up, things go south fast. There’s a lot going on in mother!, and not nearly enough of it works. Still, this film is fully committed to going insane, and that’s something you have to appreciate.
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ: Oh no, Dan Gilroy, what happened? After Gilroy’s excellent Nightcrawler, I was more than excited to see what he’d do next. Unfortunately, that would be Roman J. Israel, Esq., a muddled, dull drama about a savant lawyer (Denzel Washington) who sells out for a big pay day and lives to regret it. There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but the script is all over the place, and Washington’s mostly strong performance isn’t enough to salvage the film as a whole. Hopefully Gilroy does something better after this misfire.
MANHUNT: John Woo is back with Manhunt, an utterly ridiculous movie that at least entertains. There’s no way you can call this film “good”, but it is full of enough goofy charm that you can’t help but go along with it. Woo seems to even be winking at himself here, as is evident by the scene where two characters in a car chase speed towards a coop full of doves, just waiting to flutter by in slow motion once a crash busts them out. This film has nothing on Woo’s classics, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.