September 8-18 saw the full-fledged in-person return of the Toronto International Film Festival with a slew of the most exciting and anticipated titles the world of cinema has to offer. Of the eighteen films we’ve had the chance to screen, here are the six standout titles (and one honorable mention) we can’t wait for the rest of the world to see.
1) The whale
Marketed as Brendan Fraser’s major ‘return’ to the movies, there was a lot of buzz surrounding Darren Aronofsky The whale, even outside of its high-profile and ever-divisive manager. The film, adapted from Samuel D Hunter’s play of the same name, follows reclusive English teacher Charlie (Fraser), who teaches virtually with his laptop camera turned off due to his body image insecurities: after the death of a loved one, he has begun developing serious health problems and is morbidly obese – near death – when the film begins. Despite attempts by Charlie’s nurse/best friend Liz (Hong Chau), he refuses to change his ways – that is, until his daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) suddenly returns to his life.
While certainly one of the most grounded and straightforward films in Aronofsky’s filmography, The whale is a stunning film – a deeply personal saga about a man dealing with religious trauma, heartbreak and struggling to navigate complicated family relationships, all while inside a body he hates, and who will end his days in the week. Brendan Fraser gives a tragically moving performance as Charlie – a character undeniably steeped in sadness, but who at the same time manages to uplift those around him and represent unorthodox hope, even in his darkest moments. Paired with Sadie Sink’s ferocious performance as her callous, jaded daughter, the two form the perfect duo to bring Aronofsky’s tragic story to life, and their pas de deux performances make The whale one of TIFF’s best.
While not the first film to tackle the eclectic life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (perhaps better known as “Sissi”), the sharp and unorthodox period drama of Marie Kreutzer Bodice casts the groundbreaking Empress in a compelling new light, anchored by a whirlwind performance from Vicky Krieps. The film follows Elisabeth as she struggles to navigate relationships with her husband, children and lovers, while remaining an immaculate public figurehead and struggling with the pressures of her role as Empress.
While at times the film can feel slow or dead-end, BodiceThe remarkably down-to-earth approach to a character as large as life gives Sissi a compelling humanity and relativity that makes the film incredibly modern, despite being set nearly 150 years ago. Between the constraining costumes, crumbling European palaces, and intricate hairstyles Sissi was known for, the film has a distinct visual flair that nods both to Sissi’s high status in society and to metatextual reality. that Sisi and Austria are on the brink of collapse. Kreutzer’s screenplay is as remarkably funny as it is moving, and in conjunction with Kriep’s spirited performance, the two create a witty, brooding and melancholic portrait of an extraordinary ruler.
3) Glass onion
Perhaps TIFF’s liveliest and most star-studded title, Glass onion: a mystery at loggerheads is the highly anticipated sequel to Rian Johnson’s mysterious and murderous hit Knives out, which also premiered at TIFF. While it’s hard to imagine how Johnson could follow up on such a well-received film as Knives outwe are happy to announce that Glass Onion is undoubtedly a worthy successor: funnier than the original, with yet another eclectic ensemble cast and a killer mystery that will keep you guessing until the final reveal – trust us when we say, you won’t be able to. not guess the killer in this one.
The film follows Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as he travels to the mansion of tech billionaire Miles Bron after receiving a mysterious invitation, only to discover that Bron has cooked up a murder mystery for the ages to entertain his group of friends. improbable but very united. When the game gets deadly serious, Benoit is on the case, and what follows is a dizzying mystery that’s as unpredictable as it is fun. That’s fascinating Glass Onion succeeds both in retaining his status as the spiritual successor of Knives out while forging an undeniably unique identity, Johnson has crafted another engaging mystery that has characters and audience spinning in circles trying to put the pieces together. With Janelle Monáe, a compelling lead actress, an ensemble cast filled to the brim with comedic talent, and a handful of celebrity cameos you’ll need to see to believe, Glass Onion is a joyful good time and a clever mystery that does more than do justice to the Knives out Last name.
Premiering just months after its parent film X released theatrically, one of TIFF’s most surprising titles was Ti West pearl – a prequel/origin story for the murderous old woman at the center of the first 70s-inspired slasher. Written in just two weeks by West and Mia Goth (who played both Maxine and old woman Pearl in X) and shot in secret during Xits production, pearl is impressive by its sheer existence, and that West & Co. were able to produce such a cohesive film under such harsh constraints. Even aside from its production practicalities, however, pearl is a dazzling character-driven horror flick that lives and dies through the heartbreaking performance of Mia Goth – resulting in a bizarre, Old Hollywood-inspired origin story that eclipses the film it was designed to complement.
Set 60 years before the events of X, pearl follows the titular leading lady – a farm girl and daughter of immigrant German parents struggling to make ends meet in the midst of World War I. With her husband serving overseas, Pearl feels restrained by the humble confines of her family farm and yearns to escape and become a movie star – and she’s willing to take any means necessary to ensure that no one stands in his way. Where X was structured like a real slasher, pearl is a far more personal and intimate tale that has no qualms about delving into Pearl’s psyche and letting the audience become attached to the murderous young woman. Because as often as she commits unspeakable crimes, there’s an all-pervading vulnerability, sadness, and thirst for happiness that has made Pearl one of the most compelling horror villains in years – and thanks to the performance of Goth, the farmer-turned-killer fanatic is a genre icon in the making. Between Tyler Bates’ vintage-inspired music, West’s clever cinematography, and Goth’s jaw-dropping performance, pearl is a gripping drama disguised as a horror movie and a compelling prequel that bolsters an already impressive story.
5) Catherine called Birdy
Based on the beloved children’s book of the same name, Lena Dunham’s Catherine called Birdy is an utterly charming and youthful tale that reimagines a classic story for newer, modern sensibilities. Starring Bella Ramsey as the eponymous Catherine, the film follows a mischievous young woman living in medieval England as she tries to avoid the increasingly persistent suitors her father hopes to see her marry. Although Catherine has lived a frivolous life full of mild rebellion, financial difficulties put her father under pressure, and suddenly his reckless antics can no longer be undone or ignored. Catherine is furious to learn that her father has made numerous attempts to marry her – but as the suitors grow increasingly loathsome, she soon realizes that she has run out of excuses to avoid marriage and struggles to come to terms with the realization that she cannot remain a child forever.
Although the film makes several significant changes from the novel (including changing the ending to a more overtly feminist ending that will likely be more suitable for modern audiences), Catherine called Birdy stays true to the spirit of the original novel – capturing Catherine’s cheerful fire thanks in large part to a charming lead actress in Bella Ramsey, whose mischievous smile and infectious laugh bring levity to even the film’s darkest moments. While the film may function more often than not as a comedy, there’s also a remarkably raw and compelling undercurrent of family duty, loyalty and love that lends depth and dimension to an already endearing film. . With the comedic talent of Bella Ramsey and an ensemble cast (Andrew Scott, Joe Alwyn and Billie Piper) offering equal parts warmth and heartache, Catherine called Birdy is an uplifting coming of age story and a relentlessly joyful exploration of youth, identity and family.
6) Women talk
Even weeks later, it’s still hard to put into words the sheer emotion aroused by women who talk – which takes the No. 1 spot in our favorite TIFF 2022 film. Based on the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, the film is built on a heavy premise: a group of eight Mennonite women hold a secret meeting after learning that the men of their colony drugged and raped them. The eight women were elected to represent the interests of all women in the community, and the outcome of their debate will decide the fate of the colony: they can either forgive the men, stay and fight, or flee – the last means also serious ramifications for their religious ideology.
women who talk sees director Sarah Polley’s superb adapted screenplay work in perfect conjunction with all eight actresses to create a devastating and deeply moving chamber drama that’s as heartbreaking as it is hopeful – a remarkably nuanced and multi-faceted approach to an ever-relevant subject . It’s amazing how optimistic a film whose central conceit is rooted in the pain and abuse of women can be, but it’s that hope and faith for the future that defines women who talk apart from so many of his contemporaries. Instead of savoring the pain, women face, women who talk centers their voices – respecting every woman and her opinion, regardless of her perspective on the issue – and celebrates the strength and resilience of Mennonite women. With a ferociously talented ensemble cast (including Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw and Claire Foy), subtle direction and a remarkably skillful script, women who talk is without a doubt our favorite film of the TIFF- and perhaps of the year.
Honorable mention: Too good
Although not a TIFF first, Taylor Swift treated TIFF attendees to a special Q&A with CEO Cameron Bailey, where she shared some of her favorite movies, discussed behind-the-scenes of the realization Very good, and speculated on the future of his career as a filmmaker – maybe a feature film is in the works? The Q&A session was preceded by the very first screening of Very good on her original 35mm film – a rare treat for Swifts and moviegoers alike.