“Beast” fea­tures two riv­et­ing leads who el­e­vate this Bri­tish thriller

Stand­out Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val movies that flew un­der the radar

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - David Friend

Celebrity red car­pets, Hol­ly­wood pre­mieres and lav­ish par­ties dom­i­nate the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, but many avid film­go­ers will tell you the best part is find­ing a hid­den gem.

Here are five stand­out movies that slipped un­der the radar at this year’s fest, but of­fer fresh, chal­leng­ing and un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences worth a spot on your must-see list:

“Thelma” — Given there’s no short­age of com­ing-of-age sto­ries at film fes­ti­vals, it’s telling that Nor­we­gian di­rec­tor Joachim Trier’s haunt­ing tale rose above the rest. Cen­tred on a young woman who’s just start­ing to un­der­stand her new­found su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers, the film car­ries with it an omi­nous and sin­is­ter tone that evokes the best traits of clas­sics like “Car­rie” and “Let the Right One In.” It isn’t un­til we learn ex­actly what this teenager is ca­pa­ble of that the pieces of her story be­gin to align to chill­ing ef­fect. “Thelma” has been se­lected as Nor­way’s for­eign lan­guage Os­car en­try and is due in the­atres later this year. “The Lit­tle Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches” — Que­be­cois film­maker Si­mon Lavoie re­shapes Gae­tan Soucy’s nar­ra­tively com­plex novel into a vis­cer­ally un­set­tling black-and­white film. Set on a se­cluded Que­bec farm in the 1930s, two chil­dren con­front their twisted up­bring­ing af­ter the sud­den death of their emo­tion­ally abu­sive fa­ther. It’s a stark ex­pe­ri­ence, but Lavoie’s mas­ter­ful use of tone win­nows un­der your skin and will fes­ter long af­ter the film ends.

“Beast” — Two riv­et­ing leads el­e­vate this hyp­notic Bri­tish thriller to a higher level of ef­fec­tive­ness. Jesse Buck­ley is per­fectly cast as a shel­tered young woman who be­comes trans­fixed on a rugged hunter, played by Johnny Flynn of Net­flix’s “Lovesick.” Their part­ner­ship quickly ig­nites but the woman be­gins to ques­tion his mys­te­ri­ous past when a lo­cal teen goes miss­ing, and all signs point to her beau. But she must also con­tend with her own vi­o­lent past which threat­ens to de­rail her dreams of a per­fect union. “Beast” is a twisty story about the mon­ster that lies within all of us, and strug­gle to keep it con­tained. “Made­moi­selle Par­adis” —

Lush 18th-cen­tury vi­su­als bring life to Aus­trian di­rec­tor Bar­bara Al­bert’s re­count­ing of a real-life blind Vi­en­nese pi­anist Maria There­sia von Par­adis, who puts her trust in a capri­cious doc­tor that prom­ises to re­store her sight. When the seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble fix seems to take hold, oth­ers be­gin to won­der if they aren’t the vic­tim of a char­la­tan. Ac­tress Maria Dra­gus takes the tit­u­lar role and runs with it, al­most sin­gle-hand­edly car­ry­ing this film be­yond the realms of the usual pe­riod piece.

“Cus­tody” — What first ap­pears like a mun­dane divorce drama con­torts it­self into a trou­bling snap­shot of a cus­tody bat­tle told from the per­spec­tive of a 11-year-old boy. Af­ter un­suc­cess­fully ask­ing a judge to grant her sole cus­tody of her son — say­ing he needs pro­tec­tion from his abu­sive fa­ther — a court forces a joint ar­range­ment. The facts are murky as the child bounces be­tween par­ents, hear­ing dif­fer­ent ver­sions of who’s to blame. French di­rec­tor Xavier Le­grand cap­tures un­set­tling per­for­mances from his en­tire cast, es­pe­cially the young Thomas Gio­ria as the child caught in the midst of tur­moil.

Cana­dian Press/Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val photo

A still frame from the film "Beast" is seen in this un­dated hand­out im­age. Celebrity red car­pets, Hol­ly­wood pre­mieres and lav­ish par­ties dom­i­nate the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, but many avid film­go­ers will tell you the best part is find­ing a hid­den gem.

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