AHFW’s Top 10 Films of TIFF 2022

The 47th Annual Toronto International Festival (TIFF) came to a close on Sept. 18, 2022, and this proud Canadian jewel – once again – delivered countless movie options for professionals and fans of all ages.

This critic experienced 40 feature-length movies over 11 days, so I didn’t nearly see everything, but here are my Top 10 TIFF Films!

I hope you see these movies soon at a nearby cinema.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” – Director/co-writer Edward Berger delivers his nightmarish and haunting vision of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel about the horrors of WWI.  This epic carries jaw-dropping and sweeping technical achievements but also effectively follows a young German soldier’s (Felix Kammerer) specific journey, one that lands him in a trench-warfare hell.  Berger doesn’t always hold us in the trenches, as he thankfully offers some reprieves to catch our collective breath, including several moments with the ever-reliable Daniel Bruhl, who plays Matthias Erzberger, a politician attempting to negotiate a ceasefire. 

“The Banshees of Inisherin” – Martin McDonagh’s fourth film is his most picturesque, as he shot in gorgeous Counties Mayo and Galway, but “Banshees” is also his most straightforward. The story marches on ryegrass and clover around a simple one-sided quarrel between two men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell). However, the grim conflict feels like a spaghetti western/fable concoction, and these ingredients churn in a cauldron forged by Irish history.

Gleeson and Farrell are at the peak of their powers. Kerry Condon is a delightful and grounded scene stealer, and Barry Keoghan could earn his first Oscar nomination.

“EO” – A circus donkey finds freedom through happenstance, travels the Polish countryside, and meets a wide assortment of people and other animals along the way.  Director/co-writer Jerzy Skolimowski’s arthouse presentation of frank animal-advocate messaging presents both human kindness and depravity, and the filmmaker doesn’t pull his punches.  Isabelle Huppert makes a small supporting appearance in this grand ensemble, and six donkeys play the lead, EO, who tries to make sense of his ever-growing worldview.

“Godland” – Hlynur Palmason (“A White, White Day” (2019)) effectively presents a decisive clash between naivete and nature in a scenic drama about a Danish priest’s attempt to establish a church in 19th-century Iceland.  Indeed, Palmason fashions the Icelandic countryside as a mystical and intimating character for the audience and the clergyman (Elliott Crosset Hove), but Lucas’ (Hove) lofty emotional make-up also collides with the locals’ earthy pragmatism.  Palmason channels his inner Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick in this instant classic. 

“Hawa” – Sania Halifa makes an impressive acting debut and makes a lasting mark as Hawa, a Parisian teen who suddenly decides that former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama should adopt her.  With Ms. Obama visiting Paris for four days, Hawa races all over The City of Light to secure her future-parent dream.  Director/co-writer Maimouna Doucoure and Halifa convincingly capture Hawa’s desperation and elevate the drama around the possibilities.  Grammy-winning singer Oumou Sangare plays the girl’s grandmother in a key supporting role.

“Holy Spider” – A serial killer is murdering prostitutes in Mashhad, Iran, and a committed journalist (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) travels to this anxious city to investigate the hideous crimes in a gripping, grimy thriller from director/co-writer Ali Abbasi (“Border” (2018)).  Amir-Ebrahimi – who won Cannes’ 2022 Best Actress Award – delivers a harrowing turn as Rahimi, a woman fighting for the truth while battling sexism along the way.  Abbasi’s film – based on a true story – reveals the perpetrator very early during the first act, leading to surprising turns in the second and third.

“One Fine Morning” – Lea Seydoux gives one of the best TIFF 2022 performances as a 30-something single mom attempting to divide time between her ailing father, her daughter, and a brand-new love interest.  To further complicate matters, Sandra (Seydoux) is the other woman in the romantic relationship.  Filmmakers have told these narratives for ages, but director/writer Mia Hansen-Love refreshingly avoids clichés here and offers innumerable views of Paris as a background, including a climb up Montmartre. 

“Sisu” – The year is 1944.  WWII is nearly over.  A gray-bearded Finnish gold prospector (Jorma Tommila) simply wants to seek gilded treasure.  Unfortunately, he randomly encounters a squadron of about 30 Nazi soldiers looking for trouble.  However, misfortune has found these German combatants because this particular – otherwise ordinary-looking – Finn is a one-man killing machine!  Director/writer Jalmari Helander’s wild, bloody flick delivers cartoonish gore and theatrical insanity that will delight Midnight Madness audiences. 

“Viking” – A space agency interviews and hires five ordinary citizens to live together in a Biosphere situation on Earth, so scientists can anticipate five astronauts’ behavioral issues on the first manned mission to Mars.  Director/co-writer Stephane Lafleur’s movie sounds heavy, but it’s quite the opposite.  His eccentric and hilarious picture soars and spins on its axis with oodles of subtle and blatant sociological humor, as the players, led by a mild-mannered gym teacher (Steve Laplante), have varied responses to their cooped-up circumstances.

“Women Talking” – Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Sheila McCarthy lead an impressive ensemble in director/writer Sarah Polley’s (“Stories We Tell” (2012)) first big-screen movie – adapted from Miriam Toews’ novel – in 10 years.  When certain men in a rural, religious community commit a hideous deception on the women, several chosen ladies gather in a barn to decide their next steps.  Powerful, poignant discourse occurs in this ordinary locale, and the conversations focus on the characters’ specific plight but also on issues that have occurred throughout human history.

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