Jess Ennis gives us her top five favourites from the Toronto International Film Festival so far.

Online Editor for Redbrick Film and 3rd year English Literature with Creative Writing student.
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With September comes the penultimate stop in the autumn film festival circuit, the Toronto International Film Festival. Debuting everything from studio blockbusters to unknown documentaries and low-budget indie flicks, TIFF is an opportunity for judges and cinephiles alike to evaluate the vast array of movies that the year has brought us. While some come fresh from Cannes and Sundance, others get their world premiere here, playing to an excited crowd of people who, simply put, love film. Drawing from media buzz, critic write-ups and – well, personal bias – here are, in this writer’s humble opinion, the five most interesting films to come from TIFF so far.

Beasts of No Nation

This adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel seems set to cause ripples within the film industry. Whilst it marks Cary Fukunaga’s latest foray into film following the success of True Detective, and tells the story of a West African orphan who is trained by a fearsome warlord known as Commandant (Idris Elba) to be a guerrilla soldier, the film’s hype comes from its mode of distribution. While it is due to have a brief theatrical run, the film falls under the ever-expanding category of ‘Netflix Original’ and so will therefore then be streamed directly onto the site. Given what has already come from Netflix in recent years – Orange is the New Black, Sense8 and Daredevil, to name a few – it’ll be exciting to see whether the film retains the honesty and character-based drive that has to come to be expected from Netflix.

Kill Your Friends

Following the British music industry of the 1990’s, Kill Your Friends sees Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) desperately claw his way to the top of the hedonistic chart scene, turning to even more desperate and, in turn, murderous methods to ensure his success. The film is Nicholas Hoult’s second big release at TIFF – the other being Equals, starring Kristen Stewart – but looks the more interesting of the two, with Hoult seemingly playing the part of a sociopathic success-crazed psycho wonderfully well.

The Martian

TIFF’s biggest film by far this year is The Martian. With a roll call that looks like the guest list of a Vanity Fair party – Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan and Kate Mara, to name a few – Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi endeavour seems set to dazzle in every way possible. With special effects that this year’s Fantastic Four reboot could only dream of, and a solid lead performance by Damon, The Martian’s take on Andy Weir’s novel of the same name could be everything that people wanted from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. With added space botany.

Son of Saul

Due to its emotive and original filmmaking style, Cannes Film Festival applauded Son of Saul for its delicate handling of the Holocaust. Following one man (Géza Rohrig) as he attempts to give the corpse of his son a traditional burial from within the walls of Auschwitz, director László Nemes avoids the melodrama that has so far saturated films that touch on this topic by keeping the action – and indeed, the camera – tightly glued to its protagonist. The result, far from being uninventive or invasive, spares the audience the excessive gore, and gives them honest, heart-breaking pain. It may not have the lightness of some of TIFF’s other selections, but it certainly has them beaten tenfold in importance.

The Lobster

There are two clear-cut types of dystopian film. There are the big-budget action packed films – think The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games – and then there are films like The Lobster, which quietly and inventively explore worlds hitherto undreamt of. Set in a world in which individuals have forty-five days to find a romantic partner, at risk of being turned into an animal of their choice if they fail, protagonist David (Colin Farrell) enters The Hotel, and begins his quest for love. Another film that boasts an impressive cast, The Lobster places Hollywood favourites like Farrell and Rachel Weisz alongside talented British performers like Ben Whishaw and Olivia Colman. The result is a clever fusion of studio interest and understated, quaint performances that could be immensely promising.