TIFF 2020 Reviews

I feel sso lucky to have received a virtual pass from RespectAbility for the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020. I was able to watch five films from the festival. Normally the Toronto international FIlm Festival has a big impact on the Oscar race. Here are my reviews. I have ranked the films from best to worst.

1. Pieces of a Woman: This film was amazing. Just like with Marriage Story, this movie is hard to watch. Is about a woman, who is played by Vanessa Kirby, who's baby dies during childbirth. The film shows the whole birth scene and then portrays how she deals with the grief. It is not a cheerful movie by any means but it is a must see. Vanessa Kirby is truly outstanding and should be considered one of the front runners for the best actress Reyes at the Oscars this year. She already won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for this role. Kirby has given the best performance I've seen so far in 2020 and is now one of my favorite actresses. The film also stars Shia LaBeouf, who plays her husband, and also gives an outstanding performance. The movie is emotional and truly heartbreaking but it is one of my favorite films I have seen this year. The movie is also beautiful to look at. Most of the scenes are shot in long takes, the camera following the characters from room to room. This is especially effective in the birth scene near the beginning of the film which is all one take. Pieces of a Woman was directed by Komel Mundruczo and is a very impressive and emotional piece of filmmaking. The film was bought by Netflix for international distribution and will hopefully be available soon.

2. Nomadland: This is a small film directed by Chloe Zhao, who previously directed the independent film The Rider, and is directing next year's big budget superhero film Eternals for Marvel Studios. The movie stars Francis McDormand who plays a nomad who has lost her husband, her home, her town and almost everything. She is wandering from place to place doing odd jobs to get by. She joins various communities and meets different kinds of people. She learns how to deal with grief and loss and makes friends along the way. Francis McDormand is getting lots of Oscar buzz for this film. Her acting is outstanding and it is one of the better performances I have seen this year so far. The movie overall is very well done and very beautiful. It is rather slow so if that's not your thing it might not be for you but if you can appreciate a slice of life, independent movie I highly recommend it. Nomadland also won the People’s Choice Award at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. This award is usually an indication that film is going to be a major Oscar contender.

3. Good Joe Bell: In this film, Mark Wahlberg portrays a father with a gay son. His son was bullied in school and as a result he's walking across the country to try and stop bullying by giving speeches. The movie flashes back-and-forth between his journey on the road, his sons bullying and interactions with his son. This is not the sort of role you normally see Mark Wahlberg in but he did a great job. Probably not an award contender but a very emotional, small, meaningful film with a slight twist. It is also based on a true story. The film is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) and can be a real tear-jerker.

4. Shadow in the CLoud: In this film Chloe Grace-Moretz plays a woman in the Air Force during World War II. She boards a plane with orders to deliver a confidential package. For the first third of the movie, the audience is stuck with her in the plane’s turret. We hear her communicating with the crew via radio but we only see her. She begins to see a shadow of a creature outside the plane, very reminiscent of the classic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet”. It doesn't take long for this war movie to turn into a monster movie. I love the blend of genres and the futuristic synth score. The problem is this movie tries to do too much. Not only are the soldiers on board fighting Japanese soldiers in the air but they're also fighting monsters. The creature design of the monsters is fantastic. You can tell the film is a bit low budget at times, but when the monsters are around the tension is very high. There are a few unrealistic scenes that took me out of the film, such as a part word Chloe's character falls out of the plane, a Japanese plane explodes below her and the explosion launches her back up into the plane. The movie has great ideas and I love the genre blending. It is by no means the best monster film I’ve ever seen but it is certainly an interesting and entertaining ride. Shadow in the Cloud won the Audience Award in the Midnight Madness category at TIFF 2020. Max Landis (Chronicle, Bright) wrote the filmI am looking forward to seeing what the director of this film in his first project since being accused of rape and assault. Roseanne Liang, does next because I love her style. Something with Godzilla or a monster movie with a bigger budget would be a great fit. Shadow in the Cloud is a fun little thriller/horror but it does feel a little bit too busy at times.

5. Violation: This is a very small horror/drama about a woman who kills her sister’s husband because he raped her, The murder scene in the film is full of tension and is very well done. They explain the history the characters, like the strained relationship between the sisters through flashbacks. The rape scene is also shown through a flashback but is not over done and is rather subtle, shot with mostly close-ups. My biggest issue with this film is that I felt like there was never any payoff or consequences after the murder. It was rather unclear what happened after. We don’t know if she got away with it or the sister’s reaction to it. The cinematography is beautiful and the film is certainly intense when it wants to be. The film also flips the script on the horror genre by having plenty of full frontal male nudity instead of women nudity. The characters just don’t seem to change and the movie seems to build to nothing. Although beautiful looking, Violation ultimately falls flat. The film stars Madeleine SIms-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe and Obi Abili. It was directed by Dusty Mancinielli and Madeleine SIms-Fewer.

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