It’s Toronto Film Festival time and as accredited press, Critical Focus is ON IT.
First thing’s first, I would like to acknowledge the work of a lot of film PR companies who have reached out with screeners for those of us who can not make it entirely in person (I have a day job and a kid that takes up most of my time). What this site does here is a work of love for film. And this is how we do it.
I LIKE MOVIES
(director: Chandler Levack)
Set in Burlington, I Like Movies is the story about film nerd and high school student, Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen). He’s obsessed with cinema and getting into NYU Film School. He takes on a job at a video store to help pay for school, but his hyper focused mind, and ego, cause him to alienate best friend Matt (Percy Hynes White) and his single mom.
Strong performances by Lehtinen and Romina D’Ugo as Ana, Lawrence’s boss, anchor the film as it plays out in nostalgic settings of video stores and nineties high angst. It’s a charming journey for Lawrence, as you’ll start rolling your eyes at his endless film references, but it’s worth it, but for the heartfelt and honest way in which director and writer Chandler Levack crafts her story.
(director: Lina Rodriguez)
Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald) is a Colombian environmental lawyer who has fled her homeland after her husband is killed. She makes it to Toronto and begins life as a teacher. Her daughter, Lucia (Lucia) soon joins her. They both explore life after tragedy in different ways, but at the core is them finding their individual connections in their new lives. Sounds of their lives back home, like markets and music are interspersed and mixed with their Toronto lives, and yet you only get glimpses of Colombia. Aurora trying to find meaning in the mysteries of her past are at the heart of this film.
Views of Christie Pits and the familiar old sight of a Colombian store (in what used to be the Latin American centre of the city), are a cue to Lina Rodriguez’ attention to detail in her story. The film is a compelling watch through dialogue and Schönwald’s acting that goes beyond in her meaningful facial expressions. The whole film is a study on the power of storytelling through stillness.
(director: Babak Payami)
Babak Payami handles his subject with a close, but empathetic view into his grief and search for justice. Canadian dentist Hamed Esmaeilion’s lost his wife and daughter in Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down in 2020 by the Iranian military. The film begins with Esmaeilion recounting his ongoing grief and the arrangements he had to make at the sudden tragedy. Payami has Esmaelion speak his truth with very little interference, but for the reactions to his activism. You fear for this man and the people that risk their lives trying to help with information. This isn’t a man that will let anyone fool him, his cause is true and is his eternal love for the family he lost. Pack some tissues and remember that the 752 wasn’t too long ago. You will cry and will get angry as well.