Toronto Stories is a film made up of four short films, each one of them directed by a different person, which are connected by a common character.
If you've seen Paris, je t'aime! it may sound familiar, and it's indeed similar in some ways, but don't try to draw comparisons: Paris, je t'aime! is Paris, je t'aime!. Anyway, it was the best of the three films about Toronto I watched last week (if the other two can be called films at all).
It all starts with a little boy in a suit (and a quite messy afro, if I may add) showing up alone at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, and then walking around the streets of the city as if he was a local. I loved the idea of that little boy, who doesn't seem either to understand a single word he is told or to be able to speak English. It set me in a good mood from the beginning.
The first story is that of a boy and a girl (12-year-olds maybe) who set forward to find out about a monster that lives in an underground lair in a park in Cabbagetown. Both of them are victims of bullying or violence: the boy by a group of other kids, and the girl by her father.
The argument and the plot of this segment may seem childish at first, but they conceal something for adults to think about. The other funny thing about this part is hearing kids that age swearing, because it doesn't look like swearing at all (besides, when I was a kid all films we watched here were dubbed into neutral Spanish so you couldn't understand their original meaning).
Who or what is the Brazilian? It's left for you to find out. This short film is weird, weird in a good way and weird in a bad way, but mostly in a good one.
It's about a man and a woman (thirty-somethings this time) in an undefined relationship. While the woman tries really hard to make something happen, the guy does nothing. But it's not completely his fault, or it is. Maybe it just is, and that's the point of the story.
During this segment you can have short glimpses of the Chinatown and a museum (it's probably a very well-known place, but as the good non-Torontonian I am, I have no clue). Another cool thing is that it ends at the beginning (or it begins at the ending, depending on how you choose to see it).
It starts with a window washer doing what window washers do best, which is washing windows. In addition, he does it with a certain rhythm, which makes it even better.
Window washing aside, the guy was a convict but is now on parole, trying to make things right. Until an old friend (read inmate) appears to complicate his quiet life.
The tension-relief moments towards the end are really well made, and the circular motion of the camera during an argument (somewhat, but not quite, like the one in That '70s Show - in the opposite direction) is pretty neat.
It's the last and probably the best of the four stories. If you watched the previous three, you'll get the meaning of its title within the first minute.
The first scene takes place at Union Station, but quickly moves out to follow Henry, a bum who plays chess with passengers for money at the station, through the streets of the city at night, as he makes a great effort to help the police find the little guy in a suit.
It makes you feel for a little while what it is to be homeless (or semi-homeless, but not as harshly in La Vendedora de Rosas), and understand (at least for a moment) that in life there are no guarantees.
The last phrase makes it all clear: "Promise me one thing: don't let him go swimming."
Maybe then you really get the title.
While it's true that the film doesn't show as much about Toronto's identity and that of its neighbourhoods as one might expect, it does a good job of giving us warm glimpses of the life of its (hypothetical) residents.
The three words that cover the film fairly well are friendship, love (in many forms) and diversity.