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Very few films I've seen take place in the city of Toronto. So, when I heard about this film, and how it looked similar to "Paris, je t'aime", I immediately wanted to see it. I was not disappointed. "Toronto Stories" does a fine job at showing people's lives, without sugarcoating their stories, like the feel you might get when you walk into a Starbucks.
The four stories are all linked, in one way or another, to a young boy, who mysteriously shows up by himself at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. He also doesn't speak English, and after he's taken into custody at the airport, he manages to escape, gets on a bus, and begins to wander around the city. We're never told what he's looking for, though. It's as if he only exists to be the connection in each story. That's one of the few things I didn't like about the film, because it feels like a gimmick. However, this changes in the last story, sort of.
First, the boy randomly meets another young boy named Jacob in a park. After they spend a small part of the day together, the lost boy wanders off, again. Jacob thinks nothing of it, and spends time with his only friend Cayle, a young girl. They have a cute relationship, together, as they go back to the park, fight off a group of bullies, and discover what might be a monster living in an underground tunnel. It's not until nightfall that they meet the so-called monster. This is where the film begins to take a slight turn. Stop motion animation is used for a creepy nightmare scene. The kids' journey through the park sort of becomes a horror film, but it works. It doesn't derail too much from the style previously in the film.
Then, we get into a story about an awkward romance between a young woman and a young man, who meet in a bar. Their romance is much more awkward than in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall", and their dialogue is very funny. The guy is eccentric, with shaved pubes, and dresses in hip-hop clothes. "I'm like Polkaroo", he says. If you don't know who Polkaroo is, look it up, or better yet, wait to see the film. Despite the awkwardness in their relationship, I found it to be sweet and amusing. The lost boy also shows up, and wanders off, yet again.
This is also where the tone of the story changes, again. The last two stories are about crime, and homelessness. A home invasion scene between two ex-lovers is suspenseful, and in a dark way, kinda funny. The criminal who invades the house acts tough, but he also feels bad he's doing this. For the last story, the lost boy gets involved more in the film, like I said. He's kidnapped in Union Station (a famous Toronto landmark) by a man, who might be a pedophile. A homeless man, who plays chess with anyone passing by, sees this, and goes to find them.
So, as a fellow Torontonian, as we like to call ourselves, it was nice to look at the familiar and not so familiar locations of the city. However, the film is more than just that. It's a realistic portrayal of life. The acting is all good, and the movie is well lite. Although the tone is kind of uneven, like "Paris, je t'aime", and again, I'm not sure if I buy how the lost kid appears off and on throughout the film, these are all minor criticisms. In their own way, the characters bring the city to life. Life itself isn't always pleasant, but it's still life.
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