Six must-see films at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival

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First film in Haida Language makes waves at film festival
WATCH: First film in Haida Language makes waves at film festival – Oct 13, 2018

Steele & Drex movie critic Steve Stebbing has narrowed down the must-see films for Vancouver film fans this year.

The time of the year is upon us where we Vancouverites get to lose ourselves in a whole sea of cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).

LISTEN: Movie critic Steve Stebbing joins Steele & Drex

This is the festival’s 35th year, and, while the line-up isn’t as huge in scale as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which wrapped earlier this month, VIFF certainly has some main attractions as well as some hidden gems looking for that word of mouth.

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The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Two years ago VIFF 2015 hosted Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, an absurdly deadpan comedy riot starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.

The film described a future where people are paired together for life, and if they aren’t able to find a mate they are transformed into the animal of their choosing.

How insane is that, right?

Well, Lanthimos is back with his lead star Farrell for this new film, one that is very much NOT a comedy and very tough to describe.

Loosely, the story is about a surgeon who must make a mysterious sacrifice to keep his life together. Vague, I know but just check out this trailer.

In a word, it is unsettling.

Borg vs. McEnroe

One of the most interesting rivalries in tennis history is between the player said to be the greatest to ever play the game, Bjorn Borg, and the outspoken, brash but incredibly gifted John McEnroe, A.K.A Johnny Mac.

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Between 1978 and 1981 these two battled 14 times, and Borg vs. McEnroe tells that story through actors Sverrir Gudnason (Borg) and Shia LeBeouf (McEnroe).

No matter how engrossing the subject matter is, the real dirt everyone wants to hear about is LaBeouf and his eccentricities, which I feel undercuts the film a little.

Call Me By Your Name

People had better practice saying his name, because director Luca Guadagnino is going to be a filmmaker at the top of the pack this awards season.

VIFF entry Call Me By Your Name stars Armie Hammer as the son of an American professor who, while overseas at their Italian mansion, becomes infatuated with a grad student who stays with them to study.

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It’s getting a lot of Oscar buzz for Hammer, alongside the director himself.

Am I putting too much hype on this one? Maybe, but it is one of the best reviewed films at the festival.

Lady Bird

Admittedly, I have a giant movie crush on actress and writer Greta Gerwig.

Usually teamed with director Noah Baumbach, Gerwig spreads her wings with Lady Bird, her first outing in the director’s chair for a feature film.

It’s a story about a teenager named Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), a California nurse working her last nerve trying to raise her daughter and support her family.

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This is a semi-autobiographical film for Gerwig, and it has won a lot of praise since it screened at TIFF, especially for the two leads.


It will be a very bittersweet moment at VIFF when I take in Harry Dean Stanton’s final performance in this film, just two weeks after his death.

In a perfect role for the then-89-year-old, Stanton plays the titular character, a man who has smoked a pack-a-day for decades while everyone else has passed on.

An atheist all his life, Lucky starts to look for some meaning as he begins to come to terms with his own mortality.

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The film is actor John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut and, funny enough, features David Lynch — who directed Stanton in the Twin Peaks revival — in a supporting role


Acclaimed director Todd Haynes’ new film is closing out the festival this year, pairing him once again with Academy Award winner Julianne Moore for this story told in two parts.

On one side, you have a young boy growing up in middle America. On the other, a young girl growing up 50 years earlier whose lives intersect through a mysterious connection.

It feels like an odd choice for a director who has given us films like Carol, Far From Heaven and I’m Not There.

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But given the titles I just listed off, I’m inclined to believe we are going to see quite a unique film.

This is just six of dozens of films that will be screening overt the next couple of weeks.

VIFF has many other dark horses that could be the next buzzworthy movie, like the Irish revenge thriller Bad Day For The Cut or Loving Vincent, an animated film about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, both of which screen on opening night at the Rio.

I can’t wait to check them all out, it’s like my early Christmas.

VIFF runs from September 28 to October 13 at select theaters across the city.

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Steve Stebbing is the creator of The League of Manchildren and host of Flix Anonymous, Convicted Cinephiles, Booked, Podcast From Another Place and movie critic for CKNW 980.

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