Started in 1976, The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is an annual event that showcases some of the best movies in the world. Over the years, the festival has become a pilgrimage for movie fanatics, attracting over 480,000 people to the city yearly. While the event is often a good reason for celebrity sight seeing, it also offers the public first access to World movie premieres and the chance to vote for their favourite movie to become the recipient of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This title is often a good omen for the upcoming awards season.
I have always been an amoureux du cinéma. Starting with a VHS of The Little Mermaid growing up, my love of movies extended to classics such as Casablanca, The Sound of Music and Gone with The Wind. A few years after arriving to Toronto, I finally had the chance to attend TIFF for the first time. Since then, I have done my best to see at least one movie each year whenever possible. Luckily this year, I had the honour of viewing four movies including Feng Xiaogang’s I am not Madame Bovary, Denis Villeneuve's Arrival and Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest. However, the movie that truly struct a cord with me was J.A Bayona’s A Monster Calls.
The movie is based off the book of the same name by Patrick Ness, who also happened to write the screenplay of the movie. His obvious love for the original material translates into the film, making it an impactful emotional journey. The story follows the life of Conor O’Malley, a 13 year-old boy who is burdened with more worries than a boy his age should be. Things start to take a twist when Connor receives the unexpected visit of a monster at 12:07. Following those events, we take a look at Connor’s life and his growth in accepting the struggles in his life. I spent the last 20 minutes of the movie as an emotional wreck. J.A Bayona created a visually stunning movie and a marriage of fantasy and human emotions that is hard to come by these days. Featuring a stellar performance by newcomer Lewis MacDougall and veteran Sigourney Weaver, it is almost hard to believe that the story was originally intended for a younger audience.
The experience at TIFF differs from your usual theatre one: the energy of the festival and the appearance of the actors and directors make you understand the deeply involved process and the love and time that those people put into their art. I leave TIFF with a bittersweet feeling; the joy experienced versus the sadness of knowing I have to wait another year to experience it once more.