One of the joys of the Toronto International Film Festival is stumbling upon interesting “smaller films.” These are the international entries that often come from directors yet to establish themselves in North America. I had the opportunity to see several, and even the selections I liked less are worth seeking out:
They Have Escaped ***
The story of two troubled teenagers, Joni and Raissa, who run away from a halfway house and find an even scarier world. Directed by Finnish filmmaker J.P. Valkeapää, it is a moving, always involving tale with a central relationship that is believably messy. While the film’s final third takes an unnecessary turn toward quasi-horror, the first hour is a strong portrait of youths on the run.
Life In a Fishbowl ***
Icelandic director Baldvin Zophoníasson’s multi-character drama feels obvious at times, and a tad too predictable. But it’s three central stories are endearing enough that the end result is pretty charming.
In the Crosswind ***
This black and white drama about a woman and her daughter struggling to get home to Estonia in 1941 featured some of TIFF14’s most memorable images. Star Laura Peterson and director Martti Helde are two talents to watch.
Other less heralded, but certainly worthy TIFF14 picks:
- National Gallery ***1/2 (Wiseman’s latest doc is typically gorgeous, and, as usual, essential viewing.)
- The Wanted 18 *** (The most unique doc I saw at this year’s fest.)
- Who Am I — No System Is Safe **1/2 (Slick, silly, but very fun, this thriller is watchable from start to finish, if too predictable.)
- Trick or Treaty **1/2
- In Her Place **