Eighteen films. I managed to squeeze in 18 films at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, which sounds like a disappointment. With 300 titles on the slate, how could I only fit in a measly 18? The challenge is that in between screenings, I’m trying to fit in reviews and video blogs (as well as, you know, staples like food and sleep).

But my time in Toronto has come to an end, so I’m going to sprint through the movies I screened, to help you put a few on your radar (or slide them into the “Don’t Bother” category). Here’s what I saw, and what I thought about it:

When their children are abducted on Thanksgiving afternoon, parents – played by Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and Viola Davis – grieve differently as the investigation crawls forward. Denis Villeneuve constructs a high-tension drama that sustains its riveting pace through powerful performances. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, though, is the movie’s MVP.

Young & Beautiful
French auteur Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, In the House) explores the sexual awakening of a gorgeous teen (Marine Vacth) but takes an unexpectedly dark turn at the halfway mark and becomes something completely different. Wall-to-wall sex and nudity, but never to shock, only to move us emotionally … and it largely works.

Blue Is The Warmest Color
Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Blue follows the years-long relationship between two young women, with one experimenting with lesbian sex for the first time. The sex scenes are graphic – more graphic than expected, even with a warning. But director Abdellatif Kechiche earns his three-hour run time by immersing us in this credible relationship, so we feel every elated high and devastating low.

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