Thriving as the festival’s big gem, the Finnish road movie - or train movie, that is - “Compartment No. 6” (“Hytti nro 6”) empathically warms up both your heart and the environment it takes place in. Set in chilly Russia, the Finnish archaeology student Laura (a wonderful Seidi Haarla) finds herself on a train from Moscow to the remote Arctic city Murmansk. After spending time in the big city with the woman she loves, she is forced to share this long ride through Russia in the same compartment as a rude Russian drunk (Yuriy Borisov). Co-winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival, Finland’s gifted director Juho Kuosmanen, who made a splash with his “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki” (“Hymyilevä mies,” 2016), has created a charmingly jagged and claustrophobically delightful film about an unexpected bond between two very different people. Not only does he depict language and cultural obstacles with a restrained tone and ironic comic touch among people with rough edges in a world that seems have sprung from the past, but he does it in such a gentle, sly way that even uninvited Nordic strangers melt.
Another one that defrosts, but is set in the future, is the Swedish short film “Successful Thawing of Mr. Moro” (“Lyckad upptining av Herr Moro”) by Jerry Carlsson. Already screened at Göteborg Film Festival, this great sci-fi of sorts follows Milo Moro (Richard Sseruwagi) and daughter Siri (Doreen Ndagire) in an apartment filled with plants. After finding out that a new medicine is able to cure his partner Adrian, who has been frozen for 43 years, he becomes unreasonable. He doesn’t really want him to come back. Perfectly crafted in an atmosphere so fine, this film breaths originality when revealing fresh perspectives on memory, the complexity of love and our sometime odd perception on time.
Timeless films were very present at 2021 Toronto edition. In the English language, Benedict Cumberbatch made a buzzed performance in Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” and Kristen Stewart is bound to get her first Oscar nomination, and maybe win, as Lady Diana in Pablo Larraín’s “Spencer.”
In the film world, where it’s common for many countries to jump on board in support of a project, a few Swedish co-productions stood out. In the poignant Lebanese film “Costa Brava, Lebanon,” director Mounia Akl puts a trashed yet loving family, with a funny free-spirited grandma, in a house far from Beirut during a ravaging climate crisis. The beautifully shot and disturbing “Farha” by Darin J. Sallam, another female debut director, takes place in 1948 Palestine and views the cruel war - from the eyes of a poor 14-year-old girl. While Mexican Michel Franco’s unexpectedly tight “Sundown,” with Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg, portrays an exceptionally wealthy British family and their vacation trauma in a hot Acapulco.
What Toronto showed, with confidence, is that the future of cinema is very much alive and continues to boil after a long, cold year.

Text: Niclas Goldberg