Prior to bringing May flowers, April is showering Toronto movie theatres with an exciting new crop of indie films sure to please audiences. Before the fast-approaching summer blockbuster season turns things up to 11, here are ten independent films to see in the city this month.
The Lobster (2015)
Featuring what’s likely one of the most original and strangest film plots this year, The Lobster is a quirky dramedy set in the near future where law mandates that single adults must find a romantic partner in 45 days or be turned into the animal of his or her choice. The film follows the mild mannered David, played by a homely and charming Colin Farrell, as he searches for love before he is turned into the titular lobster. Along the way, he encounters a colourful cast of characters portrayed by a brilliant international cast, including Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, and John C. Reilly. The first English feature for acclaimed Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster has screened to wide praise at over two dozen film festivals, including TIFF 2015 and Cannes, where it was nominated for the Palme d’Or (best picture) and won the Jury Prize (third place). Beautifully filmed, this dry, witty, and at times unnerving satire about societal pressures and obsessions with conventional relationships will have viewers both in stitches and twitches.
Fun Film Fact (FFF): While The Lobster may have lost out on the Palme d’Or at Cannes, it did win the ‘prestigious’ Palm Dog – Jury Prize (second place) for Bob the shepherd dog’s performance as Farrell’s canine companion. Since 2001, the Palm Dog (a play on words of Palme d’Or) has been given at Cannes each by the international film critics association for the best performance by a dog.
Written and directed by Academy Award-winner Richard Linklater, this film is the highly anticipated follow-up to Boyhood, his 2014 critically acclaimed masterpiece. Set in Texas in 1980, Everybody Wants Some!!follows a group of college baseball players in the final days of summer as they are thrust into the new freedoms, trials, and pangs of adulthood. Between its soundtrack and costumes, this film oozes 80s nostalgia — so much so that it has been deemed a ‘spiritual sequel’ to Linklater’s 1993 cult classic Dazed and Confused, which follows a group of junior and senior high school students on the last day of school in May 1976. Both films provide a snapshot of American teenagers on the cusp of adulthood around the same time period. Also like Dazed, which featured memorable performances by then unknowns like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, Linklater’s latest features a talented ensemble cast of relatively unknowns who, if this film is any indication, will likely not stay that way for long.
FFF: According to Linklater, this film is a sort of continuation of Boyhood, as it picks up where Boyhood ends with a young man starting college, meeting his roommates and a new girl.
After running at both the Berlin International Film Festival in February (where it was nominated for the Golden Bear, or best picture) and SXSW in March, this much buzzed about science fiction drama is finally coming to theatres. Midnight Specialtells the moving story of a father who goes on the run with his young son, who appears to have special powers. The film is written and directed by talented indie filmmaker Jeff Nichols, who’s also behind such critically acclaimed films as Take Shelter(2011) and Mud (2012). In addition to Nichols’ excellent direction and screenplay, Midnight Special is elevated by an ensemble cast, with Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, and Academy Award nominee Sam Shepard.
FFF: This latest effort is the fourth effort from Shannon and Nichols, and with a fifth collaboration Loving scheduled for release later this year, they may have secured themselves as the latest dynamic duo of indie film.
This critically acclaimed Canadian drama, written and directed by Ontario native and 2006 Ryerson film grad Andrew Cividino, follows three teen boys as they battle boredom, angst, and at times, each other while spending the summer in the remote cottage country of Thunder Bay. The film’s title refers to an expansive rock formation on Sibley Peninsula, which, when viewed from Thunder Bay, looks like a giant lying on its back. Since its world premiere at Cannes in 2015, Sleeping Gianthas gone on to win praise both at home and abroad. It won Best Canadian First Feature Film at TIFF 2015, was awarded the Best Canadian Feature Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association, and was nominated for four 2016 Canadian Screen Awards (including Best Picture), eventually winning best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Nick Serino. Its international honours include the CineVision Award for Best Film By An Emerging Director at the 2015 Munich Film Festival. Sleeping Giant is a captivating portrayal of tumultuous adolescence juxtaposed against the backdrop of Lake Superior’s pristine natural beauty.
FFF: Sleeping Giant is based on a short film of the same name written and directed by Cividino in 2014. It features some of the same cast, primarily Thunder Bay locals, including Serino and his real life cousin Reece Moffett. Due to its critical success, including a 2015 Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Drama, Cividino was then able to secure funding for a feature film.
Opens Friday, April 8
Hardcore Henry (2015)
Calling all adrenaline junkies: there will be no greater thrill ride at the movies this year than the heart-pounding Hardcore Henry. The film is presented through the perspective of Henry (Sharlto Copley), who comes back from the dead with no memory and must rediscover who he is while saving his wife from an evil warlord. What makes this film so innovative is that the viewer literally watches the action of the film through Henry’s eyes, as it’s shot from his point of view. It premiered at TIFF 2015 to popular and critical success, eventually winning the People’s Choice Award for the Midnight Madness section, which showcases the best in action, horror, and fantasy. Featuring a talented cast including Tim Roth, this violent, nonstop action flick is sure to shock and awe.
FFF: The movie was shot almost entirely with GoPro Hero3 Black Edition cameras.
Nostalgia for the 1980s is hot this month — not only in Everybody Wants Some!!, but also in the latest film from Irish writer-director John Carney. Set in 1985, Sing Street follows a young man named Cosmos who, along with his ragtag group of friends, starts a band in inner city Dublin as a means of escape from his dysfunctional family and to (what else?) impress a girl. Carney, who also wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning Once (2007), has made yet another movie both film and music lovers will enjoy. Chock-a-block with young Irish talent and featuring a killer soundtrack with a mix of catchy original songs and 80s classics from the likes of Duran Duran and The Cure, Sing Street will have audiences cheering in their seats.
FFF: The film pays homage to the Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Irish film The Commitments (1991), which is also about a band started in Dublin around the same time, and even features one of its stars, Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays Cosmo’s mother in Sing Street.
This fascinating, beautifully crafted French docudrama by Russian visionary Aleksandr Sokurov is set at the Louvre Museum in Paris during the Nazi occupation, and it provides both a history lesson and a philosophical reflection on the meaning and power of art in France’s history. The film had its world premiere in main competition at the 2015 Venice Film Festival and was featured in the Masters section during TIFF 2015, which showcases films by leading art house directors from around the world. For any film, history, or art buff, Francofoniais not to be missed.
FFF: This isn’t Sokurov’s first film set in a world-renowned museum. In 2002 he directed Russian Ark, in which a 19th century French aristocrat encounters various historical figures as he makes his way through the Russian State Heritage Museum after publishing memoirs criticizing life in Russia. Remarkably shot in one take, the film won the Visions Award at TIFF in 2002, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and is widely considered to be Sokurov’s seminal work.
This funny and clever Canadian mockumentary takes place in a world in which women no longer give birth to boys. As the male population becomes an endangered species, one man and the woman he loves find themselves at the centre of a battle, and the survival of the human race hangs in the balance. Written and directed by Vancouver native Mark Sawers, No Men Beyond This Point screened at TIFF 2015. Considering how prevalent the issue of gender equality is in the media these days, particularly regarding women in the film industry, this film provides an intriguing glimpse into a world in which our longstanding patriarchal society has become almost entirely matriarchal.
Hungry film lovers shouldn’t miss this appetizing documentary, which profiles acclaimed LA food critic Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times. The film follows Gold as he explores ethnic cuisine in various LA neighbourhoods and works to disprove stigmas that brand this vibrant city as a cultural and culinary wasteland. City of Goldhas been featured in over two dozen film festivals and had its world premiere at Sundance 2015, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for documentary. Upon watching, both the charismatic Gold and his mouth-watering culinary discoveries will leave audiences wanting seconds.
Adapted by John Niven from his 2008 novel of the same name, Kill Your Friendsstars Nicholas Hoult as an ambitious music producer working during the Britpop craze of the 1990s who would literally kill for the next big hit. Featured at TIFF 2015 and deemed this generation’s American Psycho, this dark comedy is an electrifying, unnerving thrill ride showcasing performances from some of the best in up-and-coming British talent, including Hoult, Craig Roberts and Georgia King, as well as late night TV’s latest It guy James Corden. Laced with an electronic score by Junkie XL and a Britpop soundtrack featuring Radiohead, Oasis, and Blur, Kill Your Friends provides a chilling yet captivating look at a bygone era of the music industry.
FFF: Hoult’s character Steven Stelfox is loosely inspired by Don Simpson, a prolific and over-the-top American film producer who struggled with addiction but was behind some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s, including Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, and Top Gun.
For those yet to see Lady in the Van starring Maggie Smith, which was included on our February list of releases, this film will play at the Fox Theatre starting Friday, April 8. Don’t miss watching this delightful British comedy on the big screen while you still can.