TIFF 2017: 4 Underrated Films to Check Out
The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival screened hundreds of movies over a 10-day period. As always, certain films got overlooked. To help, Reader’s Digest Canada presents four films you need to watch when they screen at a theatre near you.
In Dark River, the third feature film by acclaimed English director Clio Barnard, flashbacks appear like quick bursts of memory: past and present emotions exist simultaneously. When seasonal farm worker Alice (Ruth Wilson) learns that her widowed father (Sean Bean) has passed away, she returns to the Yorkshire family farm now run by her estranged brother, Joe (Mark Stanley). Alice is forced to come to grips with the abuse she suffered as a child, while the two siblings battle for sole tenancy of the property. TIFF 2017 had no shortage of atmospheric filmmaking, and Dark River was a genuine highlight: a realist drama raised to the heights of Greek tragedy.
The Leisure Seeker
The Leisure Seeker opens with Carole King: “Something inside has died, and I can’t hide” from 1971’s “It’s Too Late.” This touching comedy tells the story of a couple who hit the road one last time: John (Donald Sutherland) has Alzheimer’s and Ella (Helen Mirren) has cancer. Italian director Paolo Virzì is obsessed with how different America has become: tourists litter over historical landmarks and muggers have poor grammar (a Donald Trump rally even makes an appearance). As Ella and John look at old photographs through a slide projector (shown several times throughout The Leisure Seeker), one thing is for certain: the passage of time is very real.
Unicorn Store, Brie Larson’s directorial debut, tells the story of Kit, an art school dropout who understands the importance of childlike play. When her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford) pressure her to embrace adulthood, she takes a job at an ad agency. One day, she begins receiving invitations to a magical pop-up store owned by an enigmatic salesman (Samuel L. Jackson), who tells her she’ll get her own unicorn if she completes a series of tasks. Described by Larson as “aggressively positive,” Unicorn Store is an amusing coming-of-age film packed with rainbow-hued visuals and a surprising amount of heart.
The directorial debut by photographers (and Montreal natives) Carlos and Jason Sanchez tackles sexual abuse and codependent relationships. That may sound like a steep task for a debut, but the duo has an uncanny understanding of the psychological thriller genre. Thirty-year-old Laura (Evan Rachel Wood, in the strongest performance of her career) befriends Eva (former TIFF Rising Star Julia Sarah Stone), a vulnerable teen with a fiercely demanding mother. When Eva decides to run away to live with Laura, she discovers she has to live with Laura’s inner demons as well. Allure is a film that stays with you long after TIFF 2017 is over.