42nd Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Eight

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 by Ian Evans

I started the day off with a press screening of Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, which premiered at the festival yesterday. To recap, it tells the story of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), an American psychologist and his fellow academic wife (Rebecca Hall). They’re examining female sexuality in class and along the way enter into a polyamorous relationship with their lab assistant (Bella Heathcote). When events lead him to find a new line of work, he comes up with Wonder Woman, a comic book that not only deals with female empowerment, but also themes of dominance, submission and bondage.

Polyamorous relationships are not a thing most audiences are used to seeing and without a good hand at the helm it would be easy to head off into a salacious direction. Robinson resists that pull and is able to show a loving union between three people. The film also deals with the puritanical censorship groups that push for the comic books to move away from story lines and scenes that they view as aberrant. Great performances from Evans, Hall and Heathcote.

Roy Thomson Hall played host to The Wife, Björn Runge’s adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s best-selling novel about a woman (Glenn Close) who leaves her husband (Jonathan Pryce) on the eve of his Nobel Prize presentation in order to finally pursue her own writing. Family secrets, past indiscretions and other family dynamics are explored in this film.

Close told reporters that she found the film’s premise fascinating and said the script felt real and human and explored a situation that many women have found themselves in.

The Wife was followed by the gala for Jon Avnet’s Three Christs, a dark comedy in which a doctor (Richard Gere) discovers a breakthrough treatment after experimenting on three paranoid schizophrenics (Peter Dinklage, Bradley Whitford, and Walton Goggins) who think they are Jesus Christ. The story is based on the actual clinical work described in Milton Rokeach’s 1964 book The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.

Walton Goggins said that three actors had to create a world where their three characters were in turn in their own worlds, a daunting task but one made easier when their director, Jon Avnet, told them it was okay for them to not have all the answers for their characters on the first day of shooting.

Gere, whose +1 for the night was his 95-year-old father, has done two films with Avnet, the first being a student film. Stephen Root, has also worked with Avnet before — on Justified — and said that Jon has a deft hand at weaving comedy into a very serious topic.

Over at the VISA Screening Room, Saul Dibb’s Journey’s End was getting its premiere. Based on the play by R.C. Sherriff, the film follows a group of British soldiers awaiting a large German offensive during World War One. Asa Butterfield stars as a green officer who requested this unit because he went to school with it’s commander. Sam Claflin plays that schoolmate, a good officer now terribly shell-shocked and trying to keep it together, and Paul Bettany plays another officer, a teacher at home, who represents the citizen soldiers conscripted to fight this never ending war. The men talk, and joke and worry with nervous fear as they sit in the trenches waiting days for the battle to commence.

Journey’s End was followed by John Woo’s Manhunt, an action-packed story about a lawyer (Zhang Hanyu) who gets framed and pursued by the authorities, though one police captain (Masaharu Fukuyama) begins to believe in his innocence. The film also stars Qi Wei and Ha Jiwon.

Over at the Elgin, the filmmaker behind The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, brought a film to TIFF about an artist. Redoubtable gives a fictionalized look into the life of Jean-Luc Godard as he searched for inspiration in the Paris of the Sixties.