When a few hundred films stop by 2014’s Toronto International Film Festival, it’s certainly impossible to cover everything, but we were able to catch about 80 features — and, with that, it’s time to conclude our experience. We’ve rounded up our top ten films, followed by a list of the complete coverage, and stay tuned over the next months (or 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 much more. As always, thanks for reading, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments below.

Alive (Park Jung-bum)


The trend towards the narrative of the victim in cinema has hit critical mass lately, with all manner of films delving into stories of people who are abused and subjugated by life, astonished and blameless victims of a world wrought from chance and cruelty. In most cases the plots of these films form a kind of endurance test, taking a character and ladling on the weight until they either bend, break, or are given a reprieve. Given the state of the world today, it is not hard to see why these narratives strike a chord with us, but it is disheartening to realize that in a bulk of these films the protagonist is does not so much act as they are acted upon. Alive, the newest film from writer/director and star Park Jung-bum, stands in stark contrast to the majority of these films in that it’s protagonist, Jeong-cheol (Park), is the primary acting force in his own life. – Brian R. (full review)

Confession (Lee Do-yun)


When someone says that they will do their best, the expression is meant as a kind of assurance. No matter what, it seems to say, you can rest easy knowing that you have my full energy and intention towards a favorable outcome. The problem inherent in this statement is that one’s best will always be tempered by whatever failings they possess, and in some cases their best effort and intentions may be poisoned by their shortcomings. Confession, the debut film by South Korean writer/director Lee Do-yun, looks at the way in which intention and character collide, painting a portrait of human interaction that is at once generous in spirit while unflinching in observation. It creates a harrowing, twisted situation in which no one ever intended to do wrong by their friends, and yet still managed to harm the people closest to them. – Brian R. (full review)

Far From Men (David Oelhoffen)


Writer/director David Oelhoffen has a special film on his hands because it’s powerful tale begs audience members to learn more about the subject. I’m not talking about the fictional character of Daru (Viggo Mortensen) secluding himself in the mountains to teach young Arab children how to read while civil war wages on or his unwitting ward of the state Mohamed (Reda Kateb) awaiting trial in Tinguit for murdering his cousin. I’m referencing the backdrop—where those mountains are and the “why” of the ongoing rebellion amidst them that spans two ethnicities, two languages, multiple races, and one common goal of freedom. – Jared M. (full review)

Haemoo (Shim Sung-Bo)


Haemoo is an effective moral thriller that immediately mirrors the best work of its co-writer and producer Bong Joon-ho. What starts as slow and straight-forward goes south quickly, raising the stakes drastically as difficult decisions are made — first for profit, and secondly for survival. Opening with a near-fatal, yet tone-setting accident on a fishing boat, Kang (Kim Yoon-seok) is a captain in a very difficult position. After a series of bad luck and poor financial decisions he finds himself over extended, unable to secure a bank loan to sail the ship as a legitimate cargo operation. Turning to the mob, Kang quickly finds himself in a moral dilemma: rather than leave his crew high and dry he reluctantly agrees to smuggle a group of Koreans leaving China with the promise of asylum in South Korea. – John F. (full review)

Horse Money (Pedro Costa)


Often, when defining the auteur, one of the first things we go to is the consistency of location — that through a certain booming metropolis, quaint small town, or secluded countryside, we can surmise autobiographical details or even the utopian fantasies of the director at hand. All of this is easy in the case of Pedro Costa, coming off his Fontainhas trilogy, which depicted the struggles of the poor and drug-addicted denizens of Lisbon’s housing projects. – Ethan V. (full review)

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)


There are some huge ebbs and flows in Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler. At times I loved it, others I felt bad for laughing, and some instances made me wonder what exactly it was I was watching. In the end, however, I can unequivocally say it’s a gem of a lean, mean film that never let’s its foot off the gas pedal with an iconic antihero in Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Lou Bloom who might currently be tops on hardcore cinephiles’ Halloween costume lists come October. Even though there isn’t a conventional plot since the film is more concerned with delivering high octane suspense and extremely high (and warped) entertainment value, you won’t be able to get it out of your head. – Jared M. (full review)

The Princess of France (Matias Piñeiro)


Although his films are rarely filled with the obvious cinematic references that color the works of Tarantino, Matias Piñeiro’s films are a different type of cinephile’s delight, engaging essential questions of how we watch and think about movies. His approach — relaxed, inconspicuous, playful, and, at times, perhaps mystical — makes their engagement of these issues feel revelatory. Then again, Hitchcock didn’t make Rear Window as a film directly about screen-based scopophilia, and Piñeiro’s films are up the same alley. His first four followed young lovers in and around Beunos Aires, shape-shifting their way through the texts of Shakespeare, their country’s own history, and, most importantly, their own romantic relationships. The Princess of France, his fifth endeavor, is decidedly his most complex, an investigation into the idea of the off-screen — though that’s only scratching the surface. – Peter L. (full review)

Spring (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)


The first words in Colin Geddes’ TIFF description for Vanguard selection Spring are, “Before Sunrise gets a supernatural twist.” Naturally, I pushed everything aside to check out what it could mean. A horror romance from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, its Italy-set journey of an American lost and alone proves equally suspenseful, grotesque, funny, and beautiful. The best part, however, is it’s smart and sensitive way of allowing the dark fantasy to enhance its love story rather than overshadow. Because at the end of the day, what’s onscreen isn’t necessarily out to scare us—although it will. Instead it shows love’s power to literally reinvent ourselves into that which we didn’t even realize we wanted to be. – Jared M. (full review)

Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland)


What Still Alice posits on the most basic level about its title character’s decline is profoundly counterintuitive. Highly intelligent people, Alice’s doctor suggests, are naturally more adept at hiding the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s with mnemonic devices than people of average intelligence, and therefore undergo mental decline far more rapidly. This counterintuitive sense extends to the film itself, which values outward grace over traceable decline. As the disease progresses, filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmore refuse to upend that grace—it merely changes shape. – Sky H. (full review)

While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach)


Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young is wise, funny, fiercely intelligent and always involving. It’s not just the director’s most complete film — it’s also his best, an even stronger, more ambitious creation than his last Toronto International Film Festival entry, Frances Ha. Here, aided by his most impressive cast to date — Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, and Adam “Ad Rock” Horowitz (!) — Baumbach has pulled off something truly impressive. He has made a heartfelt comedy that is as humorous as it is emotionally relatable. – Chris S. (full review)


The Rest

(click for full review where available, including TIFF films screened at previous festivals)

Goodbye to Language (N/A)

Amour Fou (A)

Two Days, One Night (A-)

Corbo (B+)
Force Majeure (B+)
Foxcatcher (B+)
Gemma Bovery (B+)
The Good Lie (B+)
The Intruder (B+)
The Look of Silence (B+)
Magical Girl (B+)
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Existence (B+)
Samba (B+)
Timbuktu (B+)
The Voices (B+)
The Wanted 18 (B+)
Winter Sleep (B+)

Coming Home (B)
Clouds of Sils Maria
Cut Snake (B)
The Duke of Burgundy (B)
The Guest (B)
High Society (B)
It Follows (B)
Jauja (B)
Kill Me Three Times (B)
La Sapienza (B)
Leviathan (B)
Mr. Turner (B)
National Gallery (B)
Pasolini (B)
The Riot Club (B)
Songs From the North (B)
This is Where I Leave You (B)
Tokyo Tribe (B)
Trick or Treaty? (B)
Tusk (B)
What We Do in the Shadows (B)
Wild (B)
X + Y (B)

99 Homes (B-)
Adult Beginners (B-)
The Cobbler (B-)
Learning to Drive (B-)
Maps to the Stars (B-)
Partners In Crime (B-)
Preggoland (B-)
Scarlett Innocence (B-)
Still the Water (B-)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (B-)

Bang Bang Baby (C+)
The Drop (C+)
From What Is Before (C+)
The Little Death (C+)
The Yes Men are Revolting (C+)
Welcome to Me (C+)

Laggies (C)
Men, Women & Children (C)
The New Girlfriend (C)

Good Kill (C-)
The Humbling (C-)
Manglehorn (C-)
Miss Julie (C-)
Mommy (C-)
The Search (C-)

October Gale (D+)

Short Films

TIFF Short Cuts Canada Capsules: Me and My Moulton, Entangled, Liompa & More

TIFF Short Cuts International Capsules: Chop My Money, Growing Pains, Ice Cream & More

The Film Stage Show Dispatches

TIFF 2014 Dispatch #0 – Journey to Toronto and Family on Film

In our first pre-TIFF dispatch, Brian Roan travels to Toronto and gets his 7-year-old nephew’s review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, his favorite movie of the year so far, and dives deep into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spoilers. He also questions how he’s related to his sister, who doesn’t exactly share his passion for film

TIFF 2014 Dispatch #1 – Evolving Festival, Cut Snake and The Intruder

Brian Roan enters Canada, has Enemy flashbacks, reviews Cut Snake and The Intruder with fellow audience members, talks about the evolving nature of TIFF, and more in his first full day at the festival.

TIFF 2014 Dispatch #2 – Gemma Bovery and Men, Women & Children

Brian Roan discusses Scarlet Innocence, an odd experience during a theater, and an audience member that helps to explain it. He then talks about Gemma Bovery before interviewing Emilio Doménech (@Nanisimo) about Men, Women & Children, Mommy, Eden, and the difference between TIFF and other festivals. To wrap, he talks about Big Game and the end of a long festival day.

TIFF 2014 Dispatch #3 – Tusk, Confession and the History of TIFF

Brian Roan starts out his day with Ryan McNeil (@matinee_ca) before diving into a review of his favorite thus far, Confession and talks with a fellow festivalgoer about The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Song of the Sea, Tokyo Tribe, The Dead Lands, and more. He also chats with another film lover who has been attending TIFF for many years and she talks about her favorite-ever premiere, and much more.

He then links up with The Film Stage’s John Fink to talk Kevin Smith’s Tusk and The Yes Man Are Revolting. They also go behind-the-scenes about the TIFF vs. Telluride battle and the experience and history of TIFF. Brian then finishes up by talking about Hyena and visits a jazz club.

TIFF 2014 Dispatch #4 – Luna, Alive and Heading Home

In our final dispatch from TIFF, Brian Roan heads to his final movies, speaks with the director Luna, Dave McKean about the festival experience, Toronto, and more. He then reviews the film, before talking about his final feature, Alive. Lastly, a day out, he sums up his experience with his favorite films and more about the event.


Ramin Bahrani, Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon Talk 99 Homes, Economic Woes, and More at TIFF

Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon

Benedict Cumberbatch & Cast Discuss The Imitation Game at TIFF

Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch

Jake Gyllenhaal Discusses Preparing For Nightcrawler, Weight Loss, Working With Robert Elswit, and More at TIFF


Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle Discuss Whiplash In 24-Minute TIFF Conversation


What TIFF films are you most looking forward to seeing?

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