The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (Canada, Simon Lavoie, 1) In 1930s backwoods Quebec, a pregnant teen raised by her religious fanatic father to believe she’s a boy fashioned from clay yearns to escape him and her rapist brother. Allegory of Quebec before the Quiet Revolution attacks its parade of grotesqueries wildly overblown utter seriousness.
Shot in B&W, this is what you might get if Guy Maddin lost his sense of humor in a tragic Carl Dreyer accident.
The Poet and the Boy (South Korea, Kim Yang-hee, 4) Uninspired poet whose wife is pressuring him to do something about his woeful sperm count develops a crush on a handsome young donut shop clerk. Observational drama with early comedic touches stages the eternal battle between passion and obligation.
Motorrad (Brazil, Vicente Amorim, 3) Pals on a dirt bike trip are attacked and hunted for sport by mysterious black-clad bikers. Survival horror flick is strong on dread, weak on action staging.
Lots of muted and desaturated color palettes this year. Let’s hope that's a short-lived trend.
Shuttle Life (Malaysia, Tan Seng Kiat, 4) Young man with mentally ill mom (Sylvia Chang) can’t get the birth certificate he needs to get his kid sister’s body released by the morgue after a hit and run. Neorealist drama about living with the deck stacked against you in Kuala Lumpur.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (US, S. Craig Zahler, 4) Principled drug courier (Vince Vaughan) goes to prison, where bad dudes intent on score-settling to settle with him know not who they are fucking with. Arthouse meets grindhouse as crisp dialogue and exacting formal control lay the groundwork for explosive hyper-violence.
From the director of Bone Tomahawk.
Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus. If you’ve heard of a film showing at TIFF, I’m probably waiting to see it during its upcoming conventional release, instead favoring choices that don’t have distribution and might not reappear.