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#TIFF15 Reviews: Where to Invade Next, He Named Me Malala, Youth, Looking for Grace

September 20, 2015

By John Corrado

#TIFF15The 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival has just come to a close, with the powerful Room taking home the coveted Grolsch People’s Choice Award.

But before we officially wrap things up, there are still a few more films left to talk about.  My previous batch of reviews are right here, and below are my thoughts on four more films, bringing my total number of reviews up to forty titles.

Another festival highlight was seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo at Roy Thomson Hall this weekend, with Kim Novak in attendance, and Bernard Hermann’s famous music played live by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  The 1958 classic about obsession remains one of the director’s most artistic and widely discussed achievements.

Although there are obviously no more shows coming up, more information on these films can be found through the links in the titles, which for purposes of continuity are arranged in order of when they first screened at the festival.  Enjoy!

Where to Invade Next: The latest from prolific documentarian Michael Moore, Where to Invade Next is also one of his best films yet.  After being consulted by the government on whether or not to send more troops overseas, the filmmaker is determined to go around the world and find different uses for our tax dollars, instead of pouring more money into the military or oil industries.  This journey takes him to multiple different developed countries, “invading” them as a one man army trying to find the best ideas to bring back to America, including paid vacation time for workers in Italy, bountiful school lunches in France, an amazing education system in Finland, and gender equality in Iceland.

Through interviews with different citizens and lawmakers from these countries, Michael Moore touches on a lot of social and political issues throughout this always engaging film, including prison reform, women’s rights, decriminalizing drugs and prosecuting bankers for fraud.  The filmmaker offers plenty of food for thought in his exploration of these progressive changes, and the rewards that have been reaped in return, alongside some of his finest comic antics and most gutting dramatic moments.  Entertaining, surprisingly moving and ultimately profoundly optimistic for a brighter future, Where To Invade Next is an inspiring reminder that the power to make a difference lies within us all as individuals.

Thursday, September 10th – 9:30 PM at Princess of Wales
Friday, September 11th – 11:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1
Friday, September 18th – 12:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 20th – 6:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre

He Named Me Malala: Forced to leave Pakistan with her family, after being shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out against the bombing of schools and the need for gender equality in classrooms, Malala Yousefzai has become one of the most inspiring and powerful voices of our generation, an outspoken advocate for the importance of educating young girls, and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Although the approach of director Davis Guggenheim is sometimes a little conventional, He Named Me Malala is still an important and undeniably affective documentary.

Some of the film’s best moments come from beautifully animated sequences, that give an almost mythic feel to her backstory.  Through charming scenes of Malala messing around with her brothers and playing games with her family, the film also shows that she is still just a typical teenager, and in many ways this makes her story hit home even more.  Allowing the profoundly important message of the title subject to ring through in every scene, He Named Me Malala is an inspiring film about the power for change and the importance of education and women’s rights, that should be required viewing in schools.

Saturday, September 12th – 2:15 PM at Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 13th – 11:30 AM at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Saturday, September 19th – 6:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 13

Youth: The title of Youth, the latest and arguably greatest from Oscar-winning filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, is perhaps meant as a reminder of life’s bitter irony and the elusiveness of being young, when memories of the past are constantly fading.  The film unfolds over a few weeks at a spa resort in the Swiss Alps, where a retired composer (Michael Caine) is vacationing.  The other guests include his adult daughter (Rachel Weisz), who still resents the fact that her father devoted his life to music, a fading filmmaker (Harvey Keital) trying to craft his final masterwork with a team of writers, and a young actor (Paul Dano) struggling to find a meaningful role.  Filled with symbolism, the cinematography is simply breathtaking, offering beautifully orchestrated frames that include long takes and masterful uses of slow motion, showing moments of profound beauty with an almost dreamlike quality to many of the images.

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel both deliver moving and nuanced performances as artists coming to terms with their twilight years, and the two veteran actors have a wonderful sense of chemistry between them.  Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano also deliver some standout moments, and Jane Fonda shines in a compelling extended scene as an aging movie star, delivering a brilliant monologue that drives home the underlying themes of the film.  There are moments of divine humour here, satirizing modern blockbusters and pop stars, but the film is also a moving swan song to classic artists, and powerful tribute to the last generation of big screen legends.  As the director and composer of its story prepare to take their final bow, Youth is perhaps meant as an elegy to the golden age of cinema itself, and the result is a beautiful work of art, and shining testament to the lasting power of music and moving pictures.

Saturday, September 12th – 5:45 PM at Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Sunday, September 13th – 10:30 AM at Winter Garden Theatre
Friday, September 18th – 3:00 PM at Princess of Wales

Looking for Grace: When the rebellious teenaged Grace (Odessa Young) runs away, and takes with her a pile of cash, her mother (Radha Mitchell) and father (Richard Roxburgh) set out on their own road trip to try and track her down, bringing along plenty of their own baggage.  Although Looking for Grace features some fine performances from its cast, the whole thing actually becomes quite tedious to watch as it goes along, falling somewhere between overly droll comedy and strained melodrama.  Director Sue Brooks allows the story to unfold in a series of interconnecting segments, each one focusing on another of the key players, but the characters simply aren’t sympathetic enough for us to really care about them or become overly invested their journey.  But there will surely be an audience that enjoys this particular brand of indie quirkfest, so maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:30 PM at Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Wednesday, September 16th – 11:30 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1
Saturday, September 19th – 8:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 1

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