TIFF 2017 Wrap-Up

After a summer that many pundits considered one of the best in years (I may disagree) and an especially strong line-up in Venice, the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival burst onto the scene with typical flair and a host of red carpets. In line with an increasing trend away from the fall festival circuit, a number of high-profile films skipped the big 3 and will be released at the New York Film Festival (hello, Last Flag Flying from Richard Linklater and Wonder Wheel from Woody Allen) or held until the Christmas season, including Paul Thomas Anderson’s tentatively-titled Phantom Thread and The Post, Steven Spielberg’s anticipated take on the Pentagon Papers.

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Columbus

Clean, crisp, concise, and as potent as the hallucinogenic drug referenced in the film, Columbus is a near-miracle of independent filmmaking: a quasi-mood piece from an unknown artist that will now be permanently on the cinematic map, showcasing lived-in performances that ultimately become larger-than-life. Clear-eyed, well-made, and sincerely affecting, it’s one of the best films of the year.

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A Ghost Story

Ambiguous, opaque, and highly original, A Ghost Story is an otherworldly brew that’s both wrenching and dryly funny; a gorgeously-shot-and-scored meditation on time, loss, grief, and mortality; and a potent reminder that great cinema requires nothing more than courage, vision, and execution. If you are patient and can get on its wavelength (and perhaps only some will), it’s absolutely devastating.

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Baby Driver

Slick and superlatively choreographed, with a super-charged look and feel, Baby Driver is a pedal-to-the-metal action thriller that rarely lets up, in the vein of The Driver, Point Break, and Heat. Frenzied, frenetic, and as fast-paced as a Ferrari in the red, it’s both a blast and a mess, with a strong opening and a second half that whimpers (or flames out?) before it crosses the finish line.

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It Comes at Night

Restrained, rigorous, and unrelentingly bleak, It Comes at Night is a daunting drama with a grueling mood; a lithe exploration of family amidst intense scrutiny and paranoia; and a patient, pulse-pounding thriller that’s – refreshingly, terrifyingly – not about the things that go bump in the night. Lean and mean, it comes packaged to rouse people from their slumber and keep them up shaking in their beds.

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Martyrs

Resolutely bleak, extraordinarily harrowing, and relentlessly upsetting, Martyrs is a shocking, disturbing French arthouse horror that earns its reputation, a memorable journey of vile deeds that one does not wish to remember but cannot forget. It’s a grisly thought provoker that’s nearly overwhelming in its capacity to provoke not only thoughts, but disgust, chills, nausea, and everything in between.

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Let the Right One In

Unbearably moving, crisply intelligent, and gorgeously lensed, Let the Right One In is a superb accomplishment on every level: a remarkable coming-of-age story, a disturbing horror film, and a devastating romance. Ice-cold and incredibly captivating, it’s one of the best films of the year.

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