42nd Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Nine

Friday, September 15th, 2017 by Ian Evans

Day nine and it’s really starting to get quiet as the bright lights of the Festival begin to dim before tomorrow’s closing night gala.

I started the day off with a press screening of Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House which premiered earlier in TIFF. I’m a sucker for a Watergate movie — I watch All The President’s Men annually — so I had high hopes checking out this movie. Liam Neeson plays the true-life Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI who saw the Watergate break-in and the subsequent attempt to control the FBI investigation as a threat to U.S. democracy. Felt became the deep background source for the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, a person for decades only known as Deep Throat. The historical accuracy is there, the present day parallels are deafening, and Liam Neeson gives a quiet, strong performance as a man of conviction. But the film feels smaller than it could have been. Oddly, Deep Throat was a pivotal figure in All the President’s Men, but in this film Woodward and Bernstein have a small role compared to their role in covering the story. It’s a film where Neeson’s great performance is in search of a better movie.

Over at Roy Thomson Hall, Bille August’s 55 Steps stars Hilary Swank, Helena Bonham Carter and Jeffrey Tambor in a true story of a mentally ill woman fighting the courts for more control over her life.

Director Bille August describes it as a yin and yang story between the open and expressive patient (Bonham Carter) and her emotionally closed-off lawyer (Swank). As the two work together, they benefit each other and create a great friendship.

Bonham Carter said that she had been approached years ago to play the role now played by Swank. She said the role of Eleanor gave her the opportunity to play a woman of complexities and vulnerability. She said she had to be careful to play the character and not the illness. She called her co-star Swank a wonderful woman and a generous actor to perform with.

The night at Roy Thomson Hall ended with Tali Shalom-Ezer’s My Days of Mercy. It stars Ellen Page as the daughter of a death row convict whole falls in love with a woman (Kate Mara) on the other side of her political cause.

Canada’s own Ellen Page is friends with her co-star and the pair had been looking for a project to produce together. She said the script by Joe Barton was very compelling and they loved the relationship. She added that her career has created safe spaces for the LGBTQ community because those are the roles that interest her and that she wants to present.

Kate Mara said that her research included looking at a lot of documentaries about the death penalty so that she could get an understanding of the topic and the side that her character was on.