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TIFF from my living room


My remote movie-watching of the Toronto International Film Festival continues unabated, as I try to jam as many films into each day as possible. What follows are brief reactions to a few of the films I’ve been able to screen, along with how and when you might eventually be able to see them for yourself.

Director Nathan Grossman turns his camera on young climate activist Greta Thunberg in the stirring documentary “I Am Greta.” Grossman began filming Thunberg back in 2018 when she first began her Friday school strikes for the climate, having no way of knowing that the passionate young girl from Stockholm would end up spearheading a global movement. Now, as we’re seeing skies on the East Coast darken with smoke from the fires raging on the West Coast, it’s impossible to not be moved by Thunberg, who’s spent much of the last two years pleading for action from the world’s leaders to fight our planet’s climate crisis.

Grossman captures moments of her life away from the media's cameras, when she’s allowed to be a regular teenager who argues with her father — who’s clearly deeply protective of his daughter — and has a tendency to break out into dance. The film is as inspiring as it is deeply sad, showing us how Thunberg made the decision to all but give up her childhood because she felt the inaction on the part of elder generations left her no choice.

“I Am Greta” will debut on Hulu Nov. 13.

Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf star in “Pieces of a Woman,” Kornél Mundruczó’s uneven drama about the emotional journey taken by a couple after the loss of their baby. Opening with a heart-stopping prologue that includes a 30-minute single-take sequence of a home birth that goes harrowingly wrong, the film never quite works up the same emotional charge for the remainder of its two-hour-plus running time. The biggest problem is that for a film called “Pieces of a Woman,” Kata Wéber’s screenplay keeps getting sidetracked by melodramatic subplots that distract from the true heart of the story. Kirby’s performance is great though.

“Pieces of a Woman” was picked up by Netflix, but the release date has yet to be announced.

After tackling drug smuggling (“Cartel Land”) and the civil war in Syria (“City of Ghosts”), documentarian Matthew Heineman sets his sights on conflict of a different sort with “The Boy From Medellín.” The film follows Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin in the weeks leading up to his sold-out 2019 homecoming concert, which would inadvertently be taking place against the backdrop of the country’s continuing political turmoil and student protests against the corruption of president Iván Duque Márquez’s administration. Facing pressure to lend his voice to the cause, Balvin struggles in deciding whether it’s his place to speak for his country.

As someone with only a cursory knowledge of Balvin’s music (“Mi Gente” is still a banger), I was surprised how engrossing I found this story of a successful artist grappling with where exactly his responsibilities lie when given the platform that fame lends him. “Boy From Medellín” would make an interesting companion piece to this year’s similarly-themed Taylor Swift doc, “Miss Americana.”

The latest offering from Cartoon Saloon, the Oscar-nominated Irish studio behind animated films “The Secret of Kells,” “Song of the Sea,” and “The Breadwinner,” “Wolfwalkers” has been billed as the final installment in directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s unofficial “Irish folklore trilogy.”

The fable centers around Robyn Goodfellowe, a young apprentice hunter who journeys with her father to 17th-century Kilkenny, Ireland, where he’s been enlisted to help clear the city's surrounding forests of the deadly and bloodthirsty wolf pack who lives there. Robyn dreams of following in her father’s footsteps, but her feelings soon change after striking up a friendship with a feral, ginger-haired girl who’s part of a magical forest-dwelling tribe gifted with the power to shape-shift themselves into wolves.

All of Cartoon Saloon’s films have been beautiful to look at, but the lush and lyrical “Wolfwalkers'' may be their crowning achievement. I loved the blending of animation styles, with the town visualized in rigid, angular woodblock print, contrasted against the forest world’s vibrant watercolors and gentle graphite lines. Delightful and witty, with some catchy songs and a touching message about family, love, and acceptance, “Wolfwalkers” is a gorgeous visual feast in every frame.

“Wolfwalkers” will be released in theaters before streaming on Apple TV+ later this year.

On its face, “The Father” could have been a fairly standard drama about a woman (Olivia Colman) struggling to care for a father (Anthony Hopkins) in the midst of losing himself to dementia, but the way it plays out is much more interesting. Co-written and directed by Florian Zeller, based on his 2012 play “Le Père,” the story feels more like a psychological thriller as it replicates the feeling of struggling with a disease that causes one to distrust everything they see and hear. Hopkins and Colman both give rich, complicated performances that rank among the finest I’ve seen this year.

The film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on Dece. 18.

This year has been an exceptionally good one for docs at TIFF, and “No Ordinary Man” might be my favorite of the bunch. The film ostensibly chronicles the life of jazz musician and trans icon Billy Tipton. But it grows into something even richer as directors Chase Joynt and Aisling Chin-Yee incorporate scenes of trans artists auditioning to “play” Tipton in a fictional biopic, while discussing what his life and legacy mean to both the transgender community at-large and themselves as individuals. The result is a vital, emotional dialogue about trans history and representation.

Adam Lubitow is CITY's film critic. Feedback on this review can be directed to CITY's music editor, Daniel Kushner, at