Hilary Swank, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jeffrey Tambor star in this fact-based drama about a mentally ill woman fighting the powerful psychiatric establishment for greater self-control, and the lawyer who becomes her champion and friend.


Gala Presentations

55 Steps

Bille August

Helena Bonham Carter, Hilary Swank, and Jeffrey Tambor (also appearing at this year's Festival in The Death of Stalin) star in this true story about the struggle to grant dignity and self-determination to psychiatric patients. Helmed by Bille August, veteran director of the Oscar-winning Pelle the Conqueror, 55 Steps is gripping, inspiring, and deeply human.

Colette Hughes (Swank) is a San Francisco patients' rights lawyer fighting an uphill battle against a powerful psychiatric establishment unwilling to cede its ability to medicate patients whenever and however it wants. Colette and her mentor, Mort Cohen (Tambor), agree to represent Eleanor Riese (Bonham Carter), an eccentric but disarmingly wise woman who claims she and others in the same hospital were medicated excessively and against their will.

It isn't that Eleanor refuses meds; she is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and requires pharmaceuticals to retain her independence. Rather, she demands the right to give informed consent. Meeting fierce resistance at every step, Eleanor's legal team fight tooth and nail for their client's well-being. In Eleanor, Colette gains a new friend who enters like a whirlwind, challenging her to tend to her own welfare — and ultimately changing her life.

55 Steps explores people seldom found on the big screen. The film brilliantly tackles vital issues that affect millions by focusing on two unforgettable individuals.


Thu Sep 07

Scotiabank 3

Tue Sep 12

Scotiabank 12

Fri Sep 15

Roy Thomson Hall

Sat Sep 16

Winter Garden Theatre

Sun Sep 17

Scotiabank 1