Over the last few years, I’ve grown to love independent films and now look forward to the anticipated release of many TIFF and Sundance films every year. This year, I thought I’d make a list of the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) films I’m most excited to see.
Up first, About Ray centers on a young transgendered girl (Elle Fanning, Maleficent & Super 8) who feels she was born in the wrong body and is meant to be a boy, a boy named Ray. (From here on, I’ll be referring to her as a “he” out of respect for his wishes to be a boy.) His mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon), the latter of whom is a lesbian, have a difficult time accepting Ray’s desire to transition from female to male. To make matters more complicated, Ray must obtain his father Craig's (Tate Donovan) consent before making the medical transition, the problem being that his father has been absent for most of his life.
I’m looking forward to seeing About Ray. I saw a clip of it the other night when Elle Fanning was on either Kimmel or Fallon (I can’t remember which one), and she was great. I think this film will really show how great of an actress she is and will be moving and emotional.
Another film about transgender/transsexuality on this list is The Danish Girl, starring Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, an artist who falls in love with and marries Gerda (Vikander), but begins to feel that he was meant to be a woman. As a result, their marriage is tested as he begins to explore life as Lili Elbe. The trailer alone had me in tears. It’s going to be a highly emotional film that will pull at your heartstrings like never before. And with Eddie Redmayne starring, it’s sure to be an amazing film.
Based on the 2001 novel of the same name and starring Johnny Depp, Black Mass revolves around the true story of Irish-American Whitey Bulger, the most infamous mobster in the history of South Boston who becomes an FBI informant for 30 years to defeat a Mafia family invading his turf in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. His brother is senator William “Willy” Bulger, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).
My husband and I are definitely excited for Black Mass. The trailer is intense and it has an amazing cast, including Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, and more. Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors and he always does a great job. His transformation for this film is unbelievable and I know he’ll kill it (pun intended).
This film brings a little more comedy to the list while still keeping the drama alive. Demolition is a black comedy about a successful investment banker named Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) who tragically loses his wife in a car accident. Immediately following the crash, he writes a complaint letter to a vending machine company, as the vending machine in the hospital doesn’t work and he’s already in an emotional state of mind after the news of his wife’s passing.
However, he begins writing more and more letters in which he reveals highly personal confessions. One of his letters captures the attention of customer service representative Karen (Naomi Watts), who is struggling emotionally and financially, and they form a connection with each other. She and her son (Judah Lewis) aid Davis in putting his life back together.
I love films like this, where they can make you laugh while making you feel something at the same time. Black comedies are often the perfect balance of comedy and emotion, and I think this one will be just that.
Now we’re diving into the science fiction realm of film. Director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy) brings us Equals, centering around two people (Nicholas Hoult & Kristen Stewart) who fall in love despite living in a futuristic world where love has been expelled from human genes for the purpose of productivity and serenity – because, you know, love distracts us and makes us crazy.
There isn’t a trailer for this film yet, not that I’ve been able to find at least, but it sounds like a decent film. Until I see the trailer, though, I can’t say it looks promising. Nonetheless, I like Nicholas Hoult and think he’s a great actor. I’ve never been that fond of Kristen Stewart, but she has shown some impressive acting skills in a few movies, so I’ll give this film a watch when it comes out.
Written and directed by Marc Abraham and starring the much-loved Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and rising actress Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House, Godzilla), I Saw the Light is a biopic about country singer and songwriter Hank Williams. Williams (Hiddleston) became famous in the ‘40s with his hit singles “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Lovesick Blues,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and many others. He was married to Audrey Sheppard (Olsen), who sang with him sometimes on his tracks. Sadly, he struggled with a severe alcohol and drug abuse problem and died at only 29 years old.
I have yet to find a trailer, but I already know it’ll be amazing. Both Hiddleston and Olsen are talented actors and I’m sure they’ll do Williams and his life justice in this film. Not to mention, Hiddleston does all of his own singing for the film!
It’s not everyday we get to see an actor play twins. In Legend, another biopic on this list, Tom Hardy plays Reggie and Ronnie Kray, gangsters who became powerful in London in the ’50s and ‘60s and were the leading organized criminals in East London at that time. They became powerful through Ronnie’s animalistic strength and psychotic mind and Reggie’s charming demeanor and his assessment of risks.
However, despite Reggie’s charm, the Kray’s list of committed crimes is endless, involving armed robbery, arson, assault, murder, and more. In the film, Ronnie is openly gay, although he stated in real life that he was bisexual and not gay, while Reggie is married. The lovely and talented Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, The Uninvited) plays his wife, Frances Shea, who must deal with his gangster life.
Based on the trailer, and the fact that it’s both a biopic and a gangster movie, I’d say Legend looks promising. When my husband told me about the film, I had to see the trailer. Tom Hardy is one of our favorite actors and he kills every role he takes on. I can’t say we’ve ever seen a film of his that we didn’t love. We’re both looking forward to this one!
The last film on my list has already received excellent reviews by critics. Based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue and inspired by the life of Elisabeth Fritzl, Room revolves around Ma (Brie Larson, 21 Jump Street & Short Term 12), a young woman who is lured and kidnapped by a man named Old Nick (Sean Bridgers, Sweet Home Alabama & Deadwood) and then kept in his shed for seven years. During those seven years, her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is born in the shed and knows nothing about life outside. When they finally get out and are reunited with his mother’s parents (William H Macy and Joan Allen), Jack learns about the world outside the shed, the real world, and they are able to build the life he should have had from birth. Room will undoubtedly have difficult subject matter and will require discretion on the viewer’s part.
So that's my list of TIFF films I'm most looking forward to this year. Next up, Sundance!