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#TIFF15 Reviews: Spotlight, River, Zoom, The Witch

September 16, 2015

By John Corrado

#TIFF15The 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is happening now, and will be going strong in the city until September 20th.

My previous batch of reviews from yesterday are right here, and below are my thoughts on four more films.  As usual, please come back tomorrow and throughout the final stretch of the festival for my thoughts on several more.

More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here, or through the links in the film titles, which are arranged in order of when they first screen.  Enjoy!

Spotlight: Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) are a team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe, in a special division known as Spotlight.  When they are assigned by their new editor (Liev Schrieber) to investigate allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in 2001, they start to uncover a massive web of lies and legal cover ups in their fight to have strategically hidden court documents released.  Reaching out to lawyers, emotionally scarred victims, and anyone else willing to come forward, even though many of them have been forced to remain silent or are too scared to speak up, the truth becomes hard to ignore when they start finding compelling evidence linking a shocking number of priests to child molestation cases.

Directed by Tom McCarthy, from a razor sharp and highly literate screenplay that he co-wrote, Spotlight recounts this true story, thoroughly detailing the admirable amount of work that went into filing the Pulitzer Prize-winning article.  The entire ensemble cast delivers brilliant performances, finding a crackling rhythm together in their delivery of the dialogue.  The result is a tautly paced journalistic thriller in which most of action unfolds through dialogue and takes place in cramped offices and basement archives, authentically capturing the world of reporters with a simmering sense of suspense coursing through its veins.  Fascinating, involving and emotionally powerful, Spotlight is a gripping exposé that understands the power of words, densely packed with compelling details and infuriating revelations that are heartbreakingly revealed to be just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Monday, September 14th – 6:00 PM at Princess of Wales
Tuesday, September 15th – 11:30 AM at Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Thursday, September 17th – 11:30 AM at Princess of Wales

River: John Lake (Rossif Sutherland) is a volunteer doctor in Laos, dealing with patients of trauma and emergency surgeries, as evidenced in the relentlessly graphic opening scenes of River.  But when he intervenes in a violent rape after a night at the bar, accidentally killing the assailant in a moment of vigilante rage, John ends up on the run from police as evidence piles up against him and he becomes falsely accused of the sexual assault.  There are some tense moments in this Canadian funded escape thriller, and Rossif Sutherland does a fine job of carrying the action.  Although the film could have used a little more character development, and the fairly straightforward plot can wear a little thin, River poses some interesting moral dilemmas in its treatment of serious subject matter, and maintains a certain level of suspense throughout, heightened by solid and absorbing camerawork.

Tuesday, September 15th – 7:45 PM at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Wednesday, September 16th – 6:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4

Zoom: Blending animation and live action across a mix of genres and styles, Zoom weaves together the interconnecting stories of an aspiring comic book artist (Allison Pill) who works in a factory making realistic sex dolls, a model (Mariana Ximenis) who dreams of writing a novel, and an animated director (Gael Garcia Bernal) struggling to regain creative control over his arthouse project.  Although Zoom sometimes bites off a little more than it can chew, the sheer ballsiness of this project, a crowdfunded co-production between Canada and Brazil, deserves to be applauded.

The film is bursting with style, both in the pop art inspired look of the live action scenes and the sharp lined sketches of the animated sequences, and full of heady ideas about the intersecting lines between sex and art, and who controls the destiny of the ones controlling our destiny.  As director Pedro Morelli and writer Matt Henson pretty seamlessly weave together all of these different characters and narrative strands in the endlessly inventive last act, there is no doubt that they are in complete control over their own material.  A trippy and captivatingly absurd high concept comedy, Zoom is an admirably ambitious independent film that provides a unique experience, and could easily find a cult following.

Tuesday, September 15th – 10:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 12
Wednesday, September 16th – 9:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 12

The Witch: The year is 1630, and a deeply religious family has just relocated to a rural farm property in New England.  But when crops start to fail, and their newborn child mysteriously disappears, the father (Ralph Ineson) comes to believe they have been cursed by malevolent forces, placing blame upon his daughter (Anya-Taylor Joy).  Robert Eggers directs this slow burn horror film with a sure sense of atmosphere and does a commendable job of building tension throughout, allowing for some truly disturbing images.  Through an authentic eye for period detail and costuming, The Witch also makes great use of the visually arresting locations provided by the Ontario Heritage Fund, with the moody cinematography capturing the rich blackness that surrounds them in the desolate woods.  The themes of faith and fear are affectively rendered through solid performances and dialogue purportedly lifted right off the pages of court documents and journal entries from the time period, making this an appropriately chilling modern horror film, rooted firmly in mythology and folklore of the past.

Friday, September 18th – 6:15 PM at Ryerson Theatre
Saturday, September 19th – 9:15 PM at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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