Imagine bumping into Denzel Washington, Richard Gere or Jake Gyllenhaal while waiting in line for your morning coffee? If you live downtown Toronto, there’s a pretty good chance you could run into all three of them as the 39th Toronto International Film Festival rolls into town next Thursday.
This year’s jam-packed event boasts an impressive line-up of 284 feature films, 249 of which will be premieres: 143 world, 35 international and 73 North American.
Here are the 15 films I am hoping to snag tickets to during the 11-day event.
The Judge | David Dobkin | USA | Gala Presentation | World Premiere
TIFF programmers selected the world premiere of Dobkin’s heartwarming family drama as the festival opener. In the film, Chicago defence lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral. Upon arrival, he discovers that his estranged father (Robert Duvall), the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and clear his father’s name and in the process, repairs their dysfunctional relationship.
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton
Samba | Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano | France | Gala Presentation | World Premiere
From the directors of France’s smash hit comedy, Les Intouchables comes the story of a young Senagalese migrant worker (Omar Sy) who ends up in detention following a bureaucratic slip-up. When Samba is released but faces deportation, he fights to stay in his adopted country with the help of a rookie immigration worker (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Sy, Tahar Rahim, Izia Higelin
The Imitation Game | Morten Tyldum | USA/United Kingdom | Canadian Premiere
This film follows the story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), the brilliant Cambridge mathematician, cryptologist and pioneering computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the allies win World War II.
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Alan Leech
Foxcatcher | Bennett Miller | USA | Gala Presentation | Canadian Premiere
This true-life drama from acclaimed director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) tells the dark and fascinating story of former Olympic wrestling champions Mark and David Schultz, who become involved in a fateful and fatal friendship with an eccentric multi-millionaire coach, John du Pont (Steve Carell).
Bennett Miller walked away with the Best Director prize at Cannes.
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, Dave “Doc” Bennett
Time Out of Mind | Oren Moverman | USA | Special Presentation | World Premiere
George (Richard Gere) finds himself thrust onto the ruthless streets of New York City. He seeks refuge at a Manhattan homeless shelter where he meets a veteran shelter-dweller named Dixon (Ben Vereen) who helps him navigate his new surroundings. George begins to harbour hope of reconnecting with his estranged daughter (Jena Malone).
Cast: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeremy Strong, Michael Kenneth Williams, Yul Vazquez, Coleman Domingo, Geraldine Hughes, Steve Buscemi
This is Where I Leave You | Shawn Levy | USA | Gala Presentation | World Premiere
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper, Levy’s dramatic comedy follows four adult siblings forced to return to their childhood home after their father dies. His dying wish: for the entire family to sit Shiva together, spending seven days and nights under the same roof. Confronting their history and dysfunctional relationships, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways.
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn
Elephant Song | Charles Biname | Canada | Special Presentation | World Premiere
When a psychiatrist mysteriously disappears from a hospital that has recently been plagued by scandal, Dr. Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood) is called in to investigate. He questions a disturbed patient named Michael (Xavier Dolan, whose film Mommy is also a TIFF selection) and finds himself trapped in a complex mind game.
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, Catherine Keener, Carrie-Anne Moss, Guy Nadon, Colm Feore
X+Y | Morgan Matthews | United Kingdom
Diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum as a young boy, Nathan (Asa Butterfield) has always struggled to relate to people. Numbers are the only things that make sense to him. But when an attentive teacher Mr. Humphreys (Rafe Spall) spots Nathan’s knack for numbers, he helps him land a spot on Great Britain’s team at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang
Nightcrawler | Dan Gilroy | USA | Special Presentation | World Premiere
Veteran screenwriter and first-time director Dan Gilroy paints a gripping picture of L.A.’s darkside. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a petty thief discovers the world of L.A. freelance crime journalism. He decides to join the camera crews who stalk crime scenes for footage to sell to local news stations. With the help of Nina (Rene Russo), a seasoned TV producer, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Mommy | Xavier Dolan | Canada | Special Presentation | Toronto Premiere
Fresh on the heels of its Jury Prize win at Cannes, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy is set for its Toronto debut. Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), a deeply troubled teen is discharged from a government care facility and into the care of his mother, Diane (Anne Dorval). As Diane struggles to manage her son’s erratic behaviour, their neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clement) steps in and offers much-needed support.
Cast: Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement, Antoine-Olivier Pilon
A Second Chance (En chance til) | Susanne Bier | Denmark | Special Presentation | World Premiere
In the latest from Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier, a veteran police officer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Games of Thrones) with a wife and new baby makes a fateful decision when a domestic disturbance brings him back into contact with a pair of junkie parents.
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Maria Bonnevie, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lykke May Andersen
The Good Lie | Philippe Falardeau | USA | Special Presentation | World Premiere
Based on the true story of “The Lost Boys of Sudan”, the film follows a group of young men who fled to refugee camps during the brutal civil war in Sudan. Fifteen years later, they are given the opportunity to relocate to America. Upon arrival in Kansas, they are met by an employment agency counselor (Reese Witherspoon) who takes them under her wing.
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmauel Jal, Corey Stoll, Kuoth Wiel, Emmanuel Jal
Still Alice | Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland | USA | Special Presentation | World Premiere
Based on the New York Times bestseller by Lisa Genova, Still Alice follows the story of a Columbia University professor, Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) who’s world is turned upside down by a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Cast: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parris
Mary Kom | Omung Kumar | India | Special Presentation | World Premiere
Directed by newcomer Omung Kumar and produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, this film is based on the life of India’s first female Olympic boxing medallist Mary Kom.
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thappa, Kenny Basumatary
A Little Chaos | Alan Rickman | United Kingdom | Gala Presentation | World Premiere
In this British period drama from actor-director Alan Rickman, Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) – a female landscape gardener with unconventional taste – is commissioned to design a fountain at Versailles. As she battles the rivalries at the court of Louis XIV (played by Rickman himself) and her own dark past, she finds herself falling for the man who hired her, the king’s chief architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts).
The film will close out the festival on Sept. 14.
Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Danny Webb
The film festival is set to run Sept. 4-14.
Single tickets go on sale this Sunday, August 31 at the Festival Box Office located at 225 King Street West.
Don’t forget to plan your week of film watching with the 2014 TIFF Official Film Schedule.