Certain things have emerged regarding Australians in Toronto this year. The best film directed by an Australian is probably Fred Schepisi's US-financed Words and Pictures, starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen. (There's been a bidding war amongst potential Australian distributors.) Another American film, Mike Flanagan's Oculus starring Australian actor Brenton Thwaites (Home and Away), has been deemed Toronto's best horror entry. (It's about a haunted mirror that traps its victims.) The surprise performance from an Aussie newcomer, though, should be awarded to square-jawed Sam Reid as the romantic co-star to astounding Brit television actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Touch, Undercovers) in Amma Asante's sweeping British historical drama, Belle. And yet again when dealing with the press Hugh Jackman and Joel Edgerton prove they are two of the most normal and nicest blokes working in Hollywood.
Happily, Jackman's turn as an angered father taking violent action following his daughter's abduction in Jean-Marc Vallée Prisoners marks one of the actor's finest dramatic performances yet and the film's all-star cast likewise leave every ounce of vanity behind to deliver strong performances.
[ Read: our review of Prisoners ]
Edgerton stars in Felony, a Sydney suburban crime drama, which marks the actor's first foray into screenwriting and another solid Australian production to come out of Blue-Tongue Films, the collective he is a part of. The tale of the blurring of lines between right and wrong, something cops have to live with every day, also features an all-star cast, with Tom Wilkinson the stand-out as an old school Aussie senior detective. Yet despite such quality ingredients, the film falls oddly flat and lacks the emotion to draw us in. Director Matthew Saville's television roots show.
The Railway Man has its problems as well, though lacking in emotion is not one of them. The sprawling nature of the narrative and the desire to give the real life characters their due means the film outstays its welcome. Australian Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney writes: “A former P.O.W.'s extraordinary story gets a plodding retelling in Jonathan Teplitzky's poorly-structured drama.” Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman are, however, fine as always in the film, which follows former World War Two POW, Eric Lomax, as he tries to grapple with his torture in the hands of the Japanese. Sam Reid also features as the young Finlay, played by Stellan Skarsgård as an adult.
One of the best reviewed films at the festival has been Richard Ayoade's The Double starring Jesse Eisenberg, who looks like he has another hit on his hands after Now You See Me and, of course, The Social Network. His co-star and now girlfriend, Canberra-born Mia Wasikowska, has been heaped with praise too for John Curran's Tracks in Toronto as she was in Venice. That such a quiet, pint-sized pair can elicit such gusto in their performances alludes not only to their consummate skills, but to the power of cinema. And, of course, to the quality of their directors.
[ Read: our review of Tracks ]