Day Four at TIFF had a rough start if only because we had been out until 3am the previous night. Thankfully—although we really wanted to see it—Snabba Cash [Easy Money] had sold out because if we somehow got our hands on tickets, we would have headed to the theatre at 8am with probably three hours of sleep. Instead, we met up with our Syracuse journalism friends at Tim Horton’s around 11am and headed down to the Ryerson for Robert Redford‘s The Conspirator. We would have put money down that the director would show up onstage to introduce the work, but they must have had a crazy party the night before since the large contingent of supporters in town for the premiere Saturday must have slept in. We did see our new Burlington friends from the Stone line, though, walking past and saying hello; the hour wasn’t stopping them.
The screening wasn’t wasted, however, as the film itself is a very solid historical representation of Mary Surratt’s trial on conspiracy charges for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. With a political message that rings true today, on whether the government is wielding too much power and treading on our rights as citizens, it’s the performances from a cast of many familiar faces that resonates. Whether Surratt was guilty or not, the way the trial was handled cannot be seen as anything other than unconstitutional, nor the actions of War Secretary Stanton (a very nice serious turn from Kevin Kline) as anything other than self-serving and despicable. Robin Penn as Surratt and James McAvoy as her attorney Frederick Aiken, (a Union Captain fighting for a ‘traitor’ not because he believes in her, necessarily, but because he believes in justice), are phenomenal throughout. 8/10.
Our next slot on the day became sacrificed due to the tight scheduling and growing fatigue on our marathon journey. What at first was filled by Sylvain Chomet‘s L’illusionniste [The Illusionist] had to be traded in with only twenty minutes to run down Yonge Street for a seat. The only film available in the slot was Frederick Wiseman‘s documentary Boxing Gym, the tickets of which remained unused as we chose to enjoy a sit-down lunch and satiate our masochism by watching the Buffalo Bills keep things close against the Dolphins only to lose just as the world knew they would.
The welcome time reprieve did allow us to get in line early for our final red carpet screening of the festival. Danny Boyle, his four lead stars, screenwriter, producer, and the real life survivor who’s story they all brought to the screen, Aron Ralston, all came to introduce the world premiere of 127 Hours. Boyle once again shows how he won’t be pigeonholed into any genre, taking the risk and making a film where only one actor is in frame for 90% of the duration. It’s a harrowing tale of survival and the distance we are willing to go in order to preserve it. James Franco embodies the psychological and physical chaos of being trapped in a canyon, his arm wedged immobile by a fallen boulder, for five days with a depleted Camelbak, 300ml of water, and barely any food. Infused with humor throughout, to take a bit of the tension away from the insane ordeal being depicted, the scene of his release becomes the most memorable, causing a few to leave the theatre as a result of the graphic event. But if the intensity should have been too high for anyone, it was Ralston himself, sitting between his wife and sister, reliving the nightmare as well as their love from a far getting him through it. 9/10.
By far the second best film we saw, in my mind, behind Never Let Me Go, 127 Hours was going to be tough to follow up. The daunting task fell upon our final screening of the trip, Anh Hung Tran‘s adaptation Noruwei no mori [Norwegian Wood]. A coming of age story about a boy in Japan dealing with the suicide of his best friend, the feelings for the deceased’s girlfriend as she copes, and the sexual awakening that occurs as he is about to leave his teenage years, I still am unsure exactly what I think about the whole endeavor. The film is very deliberate and very depressing, a fact made worse due to the slow pacing and constant infusion of tragedy. With a mental health residence, three suicides, psychologically damaging instances of love making within relationship triangles, Norwegian Wood does express the complexities of growing older and stronger despite the pain and anguish of life itself, but I can’t say it was necessarily an entertaining journey. The visuals are fantastic, though, and some extended takes masterful; it is just so emotionally draining. 6/10.
 TIFF’s Piers Handling, James Franco, Danny Boyle, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Aron Ralston, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, Clémence Poésy
 Anh Hung Tran