There’s always something queer happening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and this year is no different. Well, it actually is different given the current state we’re in with COVID-19, but the festival has adapted and is still happening, by way of drive-in and outdoor seated screenings, social-distanced theatre presentations, and of course virtually from the comfort of your own home. So what should theBUZZ readers check out this year? See below for five flicks worth of your time.

P.S. Don’t forget the popcorn! If you’ve decided to TIFF at home this year, why not pick up some French Can Can Popcorn , that comes in a variety of flavours? Sea Salt, Sweet & Salty, Jalepeno, Black Pepper & Lime, Cheddar & Green Onion, and traditional salt and butter Movie style. With no trans fat, cholesterol, gluten or dairy, this low-cal vegan-friendly snack comes in large family-size packages that will get you through festival season feeling healthy and happy! Check your local markets or their Facebook page for where to get yours.


Directed by Francis Lee, who brought us God’s Own Country, a no holds barred gay romp-com.  Now with his latest feature, he turns the lens on the ladies. Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in this raw love story between a solitary paleontologist and a wealthy, grieving wife in 19th-century Dorset. Each actress has both shown exceptional range, depth, and intensity on screen, but Ammonite reveals new colours. In this story of a visionary scientist and the young woman who changes her life, these two stars deliver performances of raw electricity.

Mary Anning (Winslet) devotes her days on Southwest England’s Dorset coast to finding and cataloguing fossils of ammonites, extinct and beautiful sea creatures. In the early 19th century this is no work for a woman, and no scientific society will have her. So Mary toils alone, even as male scientists visit to study and take credit for her work. When one visitor brings along his grieving wife, Charlotte (Ronan), then abandons her there to return to London, the two women have no one to turn to but each other.

Francis Lee’s follow-up to his award-winning God’s Own Country shows the same talent for powerful love stories in harsh environments. The rocky, windswept seaside of Lyme Regis is palpable here. Lee directs with a similar brisk urgency, cutting to the core of Mary’s anger and Charlotte’s pain, charting the gathering emotional storm that throws them together. As in God’s Own Country, Lee films physical passion without a shred of prudishness. He, Winslet, and Ronan forego period gloss for a portrait of desire that feels so much more true. And in showing the full gamut of Mary’s astringent brilliance and unvarnished lust, Winslet delivers one of the very best performances of her career.

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In his feature directorial debut, Viggo Mortensen stars as a gay man on a patience-testing mission to care for his ailing, solitary, and homophobic father (Lance Henriksen). Viggo Mortensen remains a star who could simply have coasted on his big-screen luminosity, he has chosen instead complex character roles for David Cronenberg, lead performances in Spanish and French, and a vital body of work in poetry and painting. Now we learn he’s a hell of a director, too. Falling, which he wrote, directed, and co-stars in, is a crackling revelation of the wounds and responsibilities that come with family.

John was born into the storm of his father’s rage. His father, Willis, resents everything about his child’s presence, and what he sees as the trap of family life. Early on, the film shifts between scenes of John as a boy, forced by Willis into regular tests of masculinity, and John as an adult (Mortensen), living happily as a gay man. But when Willis (Lance Henriksen), now in the grip of dementia, descends back into John’s life, his usual vitriol and rancid homophobia flow unchecked. As a son still bound by duty, John must care for the man who hurts him the most.

Falling lays out this family’s emotional battleground with careful attention to nuances that complicate the conflict. Mortensen uses sophisticated visual and aural techniques to take us inside the experience of both son and father. Henriksen delivers a towering performance as a man roiling with rage he can barely understand, and Laura Linney is terrific as John’s sister, Sarah. Mortensen, working with longtime Cronenberg collaborators in production designer Carol Spier and editor Ronald Sanders, weaves the whole tale together to devastating effect.

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Good Joe Bell

The Oscar-winning writers of Brokeback Mountain tell the true story of a father’s walk across the US to raise awareness about the harms of bullying. His beard scruffy and brow furrowed, Joe Bell is the picture of heartland manhood. As husband and father, he’s not above shouting to get what he wants; in fact, he hardly knows any other way. But Joe’s teenage son Jadin has grown into a beautiful, talented young gay man. He’s bullied mercilessly at his high school, and Joe’s grudging “tolerance” of his son is no help. With a stellar cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Reid Miller, Connie Britton, and Gary Sinise in heartbreaking performances, Good Joe Bell tells the story of a father learning to tell the whole world the true value of his son, even when it seemed too late.

Joe (Wahlberg) could have been permanently broken by regret, but instead sets out on a mission. He will walk across America, speaking to school groups, communities, anyone who will listen, about the corrosive dangers of bullying. Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who wrote Brokeback Mountain, shift between Joe’s cross-country odyssey and earlier scenes at home in Oregon. There, Jadin (Miller) suffers brutal homophobia at school and visible embarrassment at home from his father. He sees no other way out but suicide.

Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) directs Wahlberg to one of his finest performances, finding new layers as Joe’s empathy deepens. And Reid Miller is terrific, radiating the exuberant light of youth even as he navigates the shadows around him.

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No Ordinary Man

The legacy of Billy Tipton, a 20th-century American jazz musician and trans icon, is brought to life by a diverse group of contemporary trans artists. Revered jazz musician Billy Tipton gained fame throughout the United States in the 1940s and ’50s. His trans identity was not known throughout the echelons of the jazz and pop worlds, and it wasn’t revealed publicly until after his death in 1989. For decades, Tipton was portrayed as an ambitious woman “passing” as a man in pursuit of a music career at a time when the industry was dominated by men and trans representation was virtually non-existent. Since then, he has become a foundational icon of transmasculinity.

Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt’s brilliantly crafted No Ordinary Man maps out Tipton’s undeniable legacy, while examining the disgraceful media scrutiny and questions of legitimacy his family endured after his death. This thoughtful, timely documentary embraces the challenge of bringing Tipton’s words to life, reimagining his narrative through a diverse group of contemporary trans performers as they collectively paint a portrait of an unlikely hero. Revealing their own stories of transitioning and laying bare their personal journeys, each individual reckons with their own singular path towards self-recognition, creating a unique tapestry of trans expression as we’ve never seen it before.

On a formal level, this film shares the vitality of its subjects, deftly connecting Tipton’s identity to modern trans representation through clever editing and impassioned perspectives. No Ordinary Man is groundbreaking in how it links Tipton’s story with the struggles and triumphs of the people who followed in his footsteps, presented in their own words.

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Summer of 85

This 1980s period piece from François Ozon looks at the fateful friendship and love affair between two teenage boys on the Normandy coast. With his sumptuous Summer of 85, François Ozon mixes camp, queerness, and thriller elements into a sun-drenched romance-turned-tragedy set on the coast of Normandy. Told in flashbacks and metafiction, the film perfectly captures the era in which it takes place, using subdued 16mm film and precise 1980s fashion.

Alexis (Félix Lefebvre, in a star-making performance) is a working-class teenager deciding whether to join the workforce or continue his studies in literature. While out sailing, he capsizes during a storm and is saved by 18-year-old stranger David (the sublime Benjamin Voisin). David takes Alexis to his home, where they meet David’s forceful, charismatic mother (the hilarious Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi). David takes the helm of this new friendship and budding romance, and is soon showering Alexis with attention and gifts. He even gives Alexis a summer job at his mother’s nautical store, which he took over after his father’s recent death.

The chemistry between the two actors burns as their summer fling gives way to a dangerous obsession. David’s fixation on Alexis turns to cruelty as he reveals a sinister side to his personality. (You know a romance is doomed when your lover makes you promise to dance on their grave after their death.)

Unlike many queer coming-of-age love stories, Summer of 85 doesn’t dwell on its young characters’ coming out. They are not plagued by sexual repression, which frees the film up to fully portray their desire and youthful sexuality. It also brings to light other, more esoteric elements of infatuation and devotion, questioning whether it is, ultimately, we ourselves who project onto others the personas that we fall in love with.

Click here for screening dates, times, location, and tickets.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.