Editor's Note: We can't all make it to the Toronto International Film Festival (which is too bad, since it's where some of the best films of the next year will be shown). But CT has the next best thing: daily updates during the Festival from our critic Ken Morefield. Stay tuned for the next week for capsule reviews and reflections on some of the world's most important movies.

Devil's Knot, directed by Atom Egoyan
Night Moves, directed by Kelly Reichardt
The Dark Matter of Love, directed by Sarah McCarthy

On Monday at TIFF, two high-profile directors presented films that left me curious after watching them and confused after listening to the directors discuss them.

Devil's Knot, Atom Egoyan's highly anticipated chronicle of the West Memphis Three, has a lot of ground to cover. It wants to summarize for those who have never seen the Paradise Lost documentary, present a small town in the grip of satanic panic, give a psychological portrait of a grieving mother, and champion the idealism of an investigator who stands up for due process while he thinks the accused are still guilty.

Egoyan stated in the post-screening discussion that the film was about "living with doubt," but the film doesn't really have any. It concludes with the most sympathetic character stating what he "knows in his heart" and a typed postscript informing the audience the trio of convicted murders were eventually released by the state of Arkansas and that DNA evidence pointed to another individual.

Strong performances from Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth keep the film afloat. But when one character is baptized late in the film and the minister whispers to her that God will never give her a larger load than she can carry, it is hard to know whether Egoyan is painting her faith sympathetically or mocking the notion of organized religion at all. Similarly, after showing "experts" risibly tying occult murder to heavy metal music, the film uses that very music during a perp walk, suggesting that the crowd's hatred towards and scapegoating of the boys is an evil best symbolized by . . . heavy metal music.

Kelly Reichardt tells a simpler tale in Night Moves and yet the reticence of her main character, played by Jesse Eisenberg (also at the festival in The Double), means that the emotions of the would-be ecoterrorist remain a matter of conjecture. Reichardt claimed the film was, to her, a character study rather than a political or ideological argument, but she declined to discuss the character's fate, mentioning twice that she was being recorded and apparently concerned that plot spoilers would ensue.

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That didn't stop Eisenberg from fleshing out his own beliefs about his character's back story and the motivations that his director claimed little interest in. Reichardt also said she was interested in breaking down the plot to blow up a dam.

It is certainly fine to have a director more interested in "how" and an actor who is at least willing to talk about "why," but the cryptic driblets from the Q&A left the impression that film might have benefitted from more story development before production. It's a Reichardt film, so it is visually interesting and filled with great performances. It lacks the emotional payoff of Wendy and Lucy, however—not just because these characters do unsympathetic things, but also because they hold us at arm's length while doing them.

The most complex film of the day was actually Sarah McCarthy's The Dark Matter of Love, a documentary about a family undergoing an attachment therapy program as they adopt three Russian orphans. It sometimes feels as though our culture's relationship to science, particularly the social sciences, wavers between distrust and disgust.

Given that, and given what seemed like an extra helping of naïve idealism from the adopting family to start, I feared at first the film would be a case study in disaster. Dad tries to rename the boys, apparently unaware that his choice doesn't translate well in the Russian language. Mom and Dad appear oblivious to the stresses their biological daughter is experiencing. But gradually and painfully, they make baby steps, because the family is willing to be humble, ask for help, and change their own behaviors rather than simply trying to reshape that of others.

A major question in The Dark Matter of Love is whether or not love can be learned. Conventional wisdom usually says "no," but newsreel footage reminds us how many of our cherished assumptions in the past proved to be just that: assumptions. The film suggests that human brains are more flexible and adaptive than those of other animals, and that while the lack of early imprinting may cause serious difficulties, it may not be insurmountable.

Around the seams of that question are age-old debates about nature, nurture, fate, and free will. Perhaps we can't learn to love; we can only learn to love better. Would that we would all try this hard, availing ourselves of every resource at our disposal.

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On deck: New films from Claire Denis and Jonathan Glazer, interviews, and Simón Bolívar gets a biopic.
Day 1: Closed Curtain
Day 2: The Last of the Unjust and Mission Congo
Day 3: The Past, Violette, Young & Beautiful, The Double
Day 4: Watermark, Can a Song Save Your Life?, and Belle

Kenneth R. Morefield is an Associate Professor of English at Campbell University. He is the editor of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema, Volumes I & II, and the founder of1More Film Blog.