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The Best of Toronto International Film Festival 2013

Written by on September 18, 2013 

With around 70 reviews of Toronto International Film Festival 2013 titles already published (not counting our comprehensive look at the short film program), we’ll have a few more trickling in over the next few days, but today it’s time wrap up our experience. After Canada’s finest cinema event shared their prize winners — including our full agreement on their top choice — there were also many other great discoveries to be had. We’ve rounded up our top ten films, followed by a list of complete coverage, and stay tuned over the next months (and years) as we bring updates on features as they make their way to screens. One can also click here for a link to all of our coverage, including news, trailers, reviews and more.

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

As the end credits rolled during TIFF’s first press and industry screening of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, a peculiar thing occurred: very few people moved. Some quickly sprinted down the stairs, hurrying for their next screening, but many, like yours truly, just sat and stared, feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the experience. The film is that kind of success, a stunningly realized achievement that will clearly rank among the finest — if not the finest — films of 2013. McQueen, the British helmer behind Hunger and Shame, has brought America’s most shameful period to the screen with a fury and authenticity the likes of which audiences have never seen. – Christopher S.

Canopy (Aaron Wilson)

Rather than show us another bloody WWII massacre, writer/director Aaron Wilsondecides to breathe fresh air into the war drama with the virtually non-verbal Canopy. Inspired by first-hand accounts heard from veterans of Australian, Singaporean, and Japanese descent throughout his life, the goal of this feature length debut was to get at the heart of conflict and portray the tiniest sliver of humanity breaking through the wasteland of senseless slaughter. It’s an authentic depiction of what it means to be caught behind enemy lines without a language, sense of direction, or better than slim odds of escaping with life still flowing by the end. It’s about the connections we make and the brief moments of respite to remember what it is the fighting is all about. – Jared M.

Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)

How do you stretch having thirty days left to live into seven years? You put in the work. Ron Woodroff (Matthew McConaughey) didn’t journey towards opening up the Dallas Buyers Clubin order to stage a revolution against the FDA — he simply sought to prolong his own life. DirectorJean-Marc Vallée’s film depicts this evolution as Woodruff’s homophobic cowboy becomes a champion of the LGBT community and a leader in the fight against government AIDS profiteering. It’s a story twenty years in the making as screenwriter Craig Borten met with the real Woodruff a month before his death in 1992, enlisted Melisa Wallack’s help to rework his script in 2000, and finally saw its debut at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. And it proves much more than a vehicle for the headline grabbing weight loss of its stars. – Jared M.

The Finishers (Nils Tavernier)

The Finishers is a wonderful, crowd-pleasing tearjerker from director Nils Tavernier, inspired by the real-life Hoyt family from Holland, MA. Fabien Héraud stars as Julien, a 17-year-old with congenital palsy who has a poignant sense of humor, including playing with his fellow wheelchair-bound friends and kidding around with his mother Claire (Alexandra Lamy). His father, an athletic contract repairman who repairs ski-lifts in the summer, Paul (Jacques Gamblin), finds himself unemployed. Always on the road with little to no time to bond, Julien wishes to spend time with his father. – John F.

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Back in the ’90s, at the advent of IMAX technology, certain amusement parks would have a screen with some “experience” putting you “into the action.” Enter the 21st century, and director Alfonso Cuarón has made one of these with Gravity. While I admit such a description may seem like I’m putting the film in a bad light — simplifying it to the basest aesthetic traits — I honestly mean it as a compliment. Space has always been one place to which only a select few could boldly go; in this exhilarating look at its vast, empty expanse we truly get a sense of how beautiful and terrifying it truly is. – Jared M.

See the rest of the wrap-up on the next page >>

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