September in Toronto means glorious TIFF is approaching, a.k.a. the only film festival where your chances of bumping into Bill Murray while drinking a pumpkin spice latte are at an all-time high. But aside from all the beautiful people, gift lounges and swanky parties soon to #OCCUPYTORONTO in the next few weeks, the Toronto Film Festival means movies are coming to you. Beautiful, awe-inspiring movies that you can see before anyone else—or might never be able to see again.

As your SDTC TIFF 2014 correspondent, I have already braved the Varsity Theatre at 10 A.M. to investigate which films are worth your time. Here’s a list of 10 can’t-miss prospects, plus five wildcard ideas. TIFF loud, TIFF proud y’all, and I’ll see you in the rush line (drinking a pumpkin spice latte and high-fiving Bill Murray.)



Miles Teller and an oddly militant J.K. Simmons star in a film about an ambitious jazz drummer struggling under the weight of his sociopathic teacher. Filmed with a muscular, unnerving edge by writer/director Damien Chazelle, this taut psychological drama is either the bleakest sort of coming of age story, or a kind of tender psychological thriller. Consider it the male Black Swan.


‘Dat aspect ratio. Quebecois wunderkind writer/director Xavier Dolan returns to the festival with his fourth feature, which was already rewarded with a Special Jury Prize at Cannes. A cinematic ode to mother/son relationships (through a stellar soundtrack that features Dido and the Counting Crows’ “Colorblind” perfectly), Dolan’s muses Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clement act their guts out, alongside a breakout performance by Antoine Oliver Pilon. Filmed in an intriguing Instagram-aspect ratio, scenes of Pilon wrestling with a shopping cart, a dollar store breakdown and a sing-along to Celine Dion elevate a working class Quebecois family drama into something uniquely Dolan.


Canadian writer/director Andrea Dorfman returns with Heartbeat, her third feature, after a 10 year hiatus. The film is about a sensitive musician who rediscovers herself after a breakup. A tender, and twee (not that there’s anything wrong with that) ode to self-expression, Halifax poet and musician Tanya Davis (who last collaborated with Dorfman in the viral video “How To Be Alone”) carries the film with her strong voice. A little gem of a movie.


French director Oliver Assayas makes his English-language debut with Clouds of Sils Maria, which stars Juliet Binoche as a difficult actress who retreats into melancholia while playing the older role in a film that made her famous when she was young (opposite her rival, sassy, nuclear Chloe Grace Moretz). Kristen Stewart (in her best role to date!) picks up the pieces as her dutiful personal assistant. The chemistry between Stewart and Binchole might be unexpected but their scenes of industry gossip make the film. Indeed this funny but deeply melancholy film-within-a-film pretense recalls John Cassvaettes’ best collaborations with Gena Rowlands (“Opening Night”, “Love Streams”).


Early buzz on this film is it will win all the Oscars, so you might as well see it now when it’s possible Channing Tatum (!) will be in the same room as you. Tatum and Mike Ruffalo play brothers who dream of becoming Olympic wrestlers and find themselves entangled with the whims of their eccentric millionaire coach (Steve Carrell, virtually unrecognizable as a paranoid eccentric wrestling freak). The true crime story was directed by Capote’s Bennett Miller. Consider it this year’s The Wrestler or The Fighter or Moneyball—it’s a TIFF sports movie with an unnerving edge.


No TIFF would be complete without another effort from renowned British filmmaker Mike Leigh. Known for his heartbreaking social dramas like his films Another Year or Vera Drake, Leigh has instead turned in another fantastical biopic (much like his Gilbert and Sullivan musical Topsy-Turvy). Leigh-mainstay Timothy Spall (who won the best actor award at Cannes this year) plays English impressionist painter J.M.W. Turner. Critics are calling Mr. Turner another masterwork, but what Mike Leigh film isn’t?


French writer/director Mia Hansen-Love is only 33, but Eden marks her fourth feature. It’s a film about the French invention of EDM, spurred on by a love story between a Parisian house producer (Felix de Givry) and an American in Paris (the always-welcome Greta Gerwig). Along the way, the film chronicles how two BFF musicians became Daft Punk, and the careers lost and heartbreak felt during the creation of a new genre called electronic dance music. Hansen-Love is a sensitive and formidable talent, so the idea of a 24 Hour Party People about Parisian EDM (with Greta Gerwig!) has me positively salivating.


Canadian filmmaker Pat Mills pulls full Streisand duty as the writer/director/star of his debut feature Guidance. Personifying a drugged up former child actor who becomes a high school guidance counselor as a last resort, Mills’ acerbic black comedy should be dead on.


The pitch for the story is also why you should see this movie. Kristen Wiig plays a woman with borderline personality disorder who ends up winning a lottery jackpot. She uses the money to create a mind-bending personal talk show titled “Welcome To Me.” With guest stars like James Marsden, Joan Cusack and Freaks & Geeks’ Linda Cardellini, this film by Adam Mackay protégé Shira Piven should be a quirky good time.


Canadian writer/director Jordan Canning is a brilliant filmmaker who has created excellent short films, time after time. She finally gets a chance to show off her immense talent in her feature debut We Were Wolves, a drama about two estranged brothers who reunite at the family cottage after the death of their father. Expect it to be moody and intense with a darker take on the theme of accepting responsibility for your actions.


  1. Goodbye To Language 3D is a 3D movie directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Enough said.
  2. Chris Evans makes his writer/director debut in Before We Go. It’s a rom- com about a couple who stay up all night in New York after they miss the last train at Grand Central Station. Chris Evans stars—we’re good to go.
  3. Hong Kong action auteur Johnnie To tries his hand at the romantic comedy in Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2. Known for his innovative high-octane style, we’re excited to see how he’ll transform the genre.
  4. I wouldn’t be a proper film recommender if I didn’t tell you to see a shorts program at TIFF. Hole (by writer/director Martin Edralin) is a short film about a disabled Value Village worker who just wants to get off, which was already awarded a special prize at Locarno. It’s just tremendous.
  5. Winnipeg film group auteur John Paizs finally gets a restoration of his classic twisted 1985 comedy Crime Wave as part of the festival’s “Special Presentations” program. This beloved cult classic set the tone for the comedy of Kids and the Hall, and is virtually impossible to find elsewhere. See it at TIFF.