At the half-way point of the festival, our Toronto correspondent considers her highlights from the 2013 program.
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11 Sep 2013 - 11:07 AM  UPDATED 11 Sep 2013 - 1:48 PM

The Toronto Film Festival is so vast and sprawling and so exhausting to navigate that everyone who attends has a different experience—and, of course, we all have different favourites. While the big potential Oscar movies tend to make the most noise, they ultimately are a mixed bag. Other star-studded movies sometimes provide a gimmick in their casting as much as anything else. I've come to call Paul Haggis's Third Person, 'Turd Person' as it was so pretentious and over-bloated with its multi-strand romantic narrative. Crash it ain't. Then there are the smaller indies, which increasingly struggle to find a place in our cinemas, though they're the ones I love the most.

Probably my favourite movie here is Roger Michell's Le Week-End (pictured), a veritable two-hander which shares certain similarities with Stephen Frears' Philomena, my Venice favourite. Both British films are incredibly well written. While it came as no surprise that Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope won Venice's screenwriting prize for Philomena, Michell's re-teaming with Hanif Kureishi for Le Week-End (after The Mother starring Daniel Craig) shows the duo at their best. Of course, Kureishi wrote My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammie and Rosie Get Laid, both directed by Frears.

Poignant and hilarious, Le Week-End follows longtime married couple Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as they attempt to have a romantic getaway in Paris and find themselves dealing with the shortcomings in their lives and their relationship. When I spoke to Ciarán Hinds for his more gut-wrenching Irish drama The Sea—where he plays a husband grieving the death of his wife played by Sinéad Cusack—he clapped his hands in joy when I told him Broadbent is a dope smoking old hippy in the film, while Lindsay Duncan (Hinds' co-star in the HBO series Rome) is his indomitable wife. “I can't wait to see it!” Hinds enthused.

Hinds himself features in another of my TIFF favorites, The Disppearance of Eleanor Rigby, which focused on a couple who have lost a child. The unusual project, instigated by writer-director Ned Benson and his close friend Jessica Chastain, actually comprises two feature films, Him and Her, which screen back-to-back. Chastain and her on-screen husband, James McAvoy, do some of their best work here. How it will screen commercially is yet to be determined.

As for the Oscar bait films, Prisoners was deeply moving with Hugh Jackman outstanding as the father of an abducted child; 12 Years a Slave, which was produced by Brad Pitt's Plan B (he plays the hero), has Best Film Oscar written all over it, though with its excessive violence it's not exactly a date night film; Idris Elba is likely to attract awards attention for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; a skinny Matthew McConaughey is as astounding as we all expected as HIV drugs crusader Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club; while some believe that Julia Roberts gives the performance of her career in August: Osage County, alongside Meryl Streep.

The big disappointment has been The Fifth Estate. When I arrived at the screening of Love Punch the morning after Bill Condon's Julian Assange story opened the festival, important Hollywood types were deeming Alex Gibney's documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks far better.

Love Punch is an over-the top British heist comedy, starring Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan, who work so well together they make the mayhem work. It's the kind of film that will work well here.