The Toronto International Film Festival

Bell made the most incredible advertisement this year as part of its sponsorship of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The ad is just a phone sitting on a table, ringing softly beneath a woman talking about why the phone rings in different movies. In a romance film, you have to pick up the phone because it’s the love of your life calling. In a sci-fi movie, it’s future you calling past you to warn you of what the future world has become. At the end of the ad, the woman says: “if you knew all this, then you are a movie lover.”

I am a movie lover, I really, really am. I get it from my mom. The two of us can talk movies for hours, how different scenes made us feel, why that one shot was significant, what characters were beautifully complex enough to make you love them despite their evil actions. I am a film buff.

This year was my first ever year attending TIFF, after six long years of wanting to go. I had the opportunity to attend two premieres; Felix Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy and Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, a remake of A Star is Born. Both of these movies were fantastic, and obviously, the best part of TIFF was watching the movies, but there’s something to be said about the entire experience as a whole. For TIFF, they cut off a huge chunk of King Street in Toronto to set up different movie-related activities for people to take part in. There’s a red carpet set up outside of Roy Thomson Hall for when celebrities arrive for their premiere, and it’s always surrounded by hoards of people.

TIFF is the largest public film festival in the world. This means that the general public is invited to go and see the premieres of the films playing, and often the films that premiere are not small-scale films. Nearly every year, TIFF hosts multiple award season contenders at their festival for either world or North American premieres. They have Q&As with the stars of the films, many different theatres doing screenings of many different films. There are foreign films and American films, they have free film screenings throughout the 10-day engagement, filmmaking seminars and presentations, and many more things for people to do. TIFF is an amazing opportunity to expose Canadians to all different kinds of movies, and fully share the importance of film in society.

I attended the September 9th premiere of A Star is Born this year, and I had such an incredible time. I went with my mom, and before the movie started, we went and stood at the red carpet for a little while to see Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga arrived. If you ever go to TIFF, go to at least one red carpet. There are places to stand where it’s not too crowded and you can still see everything. It’s a super cool experience; watching the black vans pull up, guessing who’s going to be getting out next, and then seeing the stars in person. I’m very fascinated by celebrity, and I always have been, so this was a really cool experience for me (especially because I would probably die for Lady Gaga if she asked me to).

As I said, the best part of TIFF is the movies, that’s the whole purpose of the festival, and A Star is Born reinforced this truth. It tells the story of a rock musician in the peak of his career and his discovery of the love of his life and how he moulds her into a rising star. A Star is Born marks the journey of a musician on her way up and a star on his descent. It’s a beautiful film in all aspects. Bradley Cooper develops this story that has been remade time and time again into a modern version that looks into the darker side of fame. There are moments in the film that cover alcoholism, suicide, childhood trauma, and it all is done in a sensitive yet truthful way. There is no moment where the story is not engaging and heartbreaking.

But the best part of A Star is Born, hands down is the music. All of the music is played live, by the request of the female lead, Lady Gaga. Even Bradley Cooper, who is not known as a singer, does an incredible job with his performances. And of course, Lady Gaga is incredible. As one of the greatest female performers right now, she obviously does not disappoint. Even in terms of her acting, she shines and shines and shines.

Everything about this movie is electrifying. It transitions from moments of joyous love to moments where you have to watch through your fingers. It intertwines the things we all love about celebrity and fame with the things we all want to ignore in a way that makes you want the film to never end.

Beautiful Boy has the same heartbreaking feel as A Star is Born but in a completely different context. Based on two memoirs by a father and son (Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak by Nic Sheff), the film details a son’s journey through addiction through the eyes of his father. The film stars Steve Carrell as David Sheff, the father, and Timothee Chalamet as his son, Nic Sheff, struggling with a meth addiction. Both men are incredible in the film and could each easily receive a best actor nomination at the 2019 Academy Awards. It doesn’t shy away from being brutally honest about what addiction looks like. You see Nic go through the brutal process of cooking crystal meth, and then proceeding to inject it into his system.

Beautiful Boy is a difficult watch, but an important one. It’s an interesting perspective to take when telling this story, and the film has a heavy focus on how a drug addiction can affect those who are close to the addict. The story is real and dodges the route of romanticization of addiction that so many films take. More than being about addiction, this film is about family; the lengths you would go to protect them, and figuring out what to do when protection is no longer an option.

Both of these movies left a lasting impact on me, which is what films should do, and that is the purpose of TIFF. This is a festival created for movie lovers of all types, not just critics and stars, and they want you to see movies that you will carry with you for a long time. It’s a celebration of film and art and storytelling, and it reaches its arms out to grab you and holds on. If you like to spot celebrities, or like having bragging rights about seeing things before everyone else, or just love movies, mark the first weekend of September on your calendar because TIFF is unmissable.