It’s that time of year again! We’ve already run pieces from Venice and Telluride, and our crew heads to Toronto this week for the Festival of Festivals, the world-famous Toronto International Film Festival. Almost back to its pre-pandemic form, this year’s fest boasts some of the most impressive world premieres the annual event has ever hosted, along with a robust selection of works that have already premiered at other fests like Cannes and Telluride. For this preview of the films you can expect to see covered out of TIFF, we’ve stuck to World Premieres only. You can expect coverage of other works like Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” Florian Zeller’s “The Son,” Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” and second takes and even a few full-length reviews on films we originally covered at Cannes like “Moonage Daydream” and “Decision to Leave,” but these are the films that audiences will see for the first time in Toronto. Come back starting Thursday for a consistent flow of full reviews and dispatches from yours truly, Robert Daniels, and Marya E. Gates.
Nicholas Stoller has directed some beloved modern comedies, including “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek,” and he comes to Toronto with a star vehicle for the singular Billy Eichner, who co-wrote and stars in this film being billed as a “part satire, part rom-com—brilliantly disguised as anti-rom-com.” We’re intrigued. Eichner stars as a podcast host who falls for someone who seems to be his exact opposite, a good-looking estate lawyer, played by Luke Macfarlane. This could be one of the bigger crowd-pleasers of TIFF 2022. Premieres 9/9.
We love Chicagoan Gabe Polsky, someone previously best-known for his insightful sports documentaries like “Red Army” and “In Search of Greatness.” He stretches his range at this year’s TIFF with a narrative feature adaptation of a Western novel by John Williams that was originally published in 1960. Polsky has an incredible leading man for this genre project in Nicolas Cage, who appears like he could be in his lower register here (think more “Pig” than “Mandy”), playing a buffalo hunter who ends up on the trail with an inexperienced Harvard drop-out looking for meaning, played by Fred Hechinger, who broke out on HBO’s “The White Lotus.” Premieres 9/9.
It feels like Jennifer Lawrence has been a little absent from the film scene lately, appearing in little more than the ensemble piece “Don’t Look Up” in the last four years. She’s back front and center in Lila Neugebauer’s feature directorial debut, world premiering at TIFF. She plays Lynsey, a worker for the U.S. Army Corps who is in Afghanistan when she is struck by an explosive that targets her vehicle. She returns home injured and traumatized, where she meets a mechanic named James (the fantastic Brian Tyree Henry) and a love story unfolds. Not only would it be nice to see Lawrence show off her dramatic range again, but one hopes this is the part that really allows the always-great Henry to have the breakout he deserves. Premieres 9/10.
Mary Harron is one of Ontario’s best filmmakers, and so it’s lovely to see the filmmaker behind “American Psycho” and “I Shot Andy Warhol” return to her home country for the world premiere of her first film since 2018’s “Charlie Says.” Here, she teams up with the legendary Sir Ben Kingsley for a focused biopic of the famed painter Salvador Dali. One of the most famous painters of the 20th century is seen here through the eyes of a young assistant, who also chronicles the tumultuous relationship the painter had with his wife Gala, played by the iconic Barbara Sukowa. Choosing a chapter of a Dali’s later years in the ‘70s allows Harron to return to the playground of the art scene in the era that she chronicled so memorably in “Warhol.” Premieres 9/17 as the Closing Night film.
J.D. Dillard, the multi-talented artist behind the indie genre films “Sleight” and “Sweetheart,” gets his biggest canvas yet in this historical drama adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name by Adam Makos. Not only will it be exciting to see Dillard tackle an untold story of the Korean War, but he’s doing so with one of the most consistent actors of his generation in Jonathan Majors. The star of “Da 5 Bloods” partners with one of the kings of the summer in Glen Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick”) to tell the tale of the U.S. Navy’s first Black aviator. A war movie with a great young cast and director on the rise that will only screen in IMAX at the fest—this could be one of the most exhilarating experiences at any of the fall festivals. Premieres 9/12.
One of the biggest gets of the Toronto programming team in the history of the fest has to be the world premiere of the latest from one of the best living filmmakers, Steven Spielberg. The Oscar-winning legend comes to Canada with what’s being billed as his “most personal film yet,” a loosely autobiographical tale built around the director’s growing love for the art of cinema as a child. Newcomer Gabriel LaBelle leads a cast that also includes Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Michelle Williams, who is being billed as “the heart of the story” as the young protagonist’s mother. Just the thought of Spielberg translating his love of movies into a family drama gives us the chills. Premieres 9/10.
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
He’s back! Three years after “Knives Out” premiered at TIFF, Rian Johnson chose the fest as the place to premiere the quick sequel to that smash hit mystery, another tale of murder and mayhem for the singular Benoit Blanc. Of course, Daniel Craig returns in the central role, joined once again by a fascinating ensemble of stars and character actors. Who’s coming to the party this time? How about Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista? It would be cool with us if there was a Benoit Blanc movie at TIFF every 2-3 years from here on out. Premieres 9/10.
“The Good Nurse”
The last time that Jessica Chastain brought a world premiere to TIFF, she would eventually go home with an Oscar for her work in that film, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Could she do it again? This one certainly feels like Oscar bait, pairing the beloved actress with another TIFF fave in Eddie Redmayne (his Oscar-winning “The Theory of Everything” premiered here too). Chastain plays a nurse who fears that her co-worker (played by Redmayne) may be killing his patients in what’s being billed as a thriller from the excellent Tobias Lindholm, the co-writer of “The Hunt” and the Oscar-winning “Another Round.” Premieres 9/11.
“The Greatest Beer Run Ever”
The last time that Peter Farrelly came to Toronto, he premiered what would become the eventual Best Picture winner in “Green Book.” Can he do it again? Apple TV sure hopes so as they’ve bankrolled this potential crowd pleaser in a quirky Vietnam War dramedy about an average dude (Zac Efron) who decides after a few too many in a bar in 1967 NYC that he’s literally going to travel to Vietnam to bring his buddies some beer. It doesn’t go quite as planned. With a promising supporting cast that includes Russell Crowe and Bill Murray, this promises to play to Toronto crowds looking for something more accessible than some of this year’s dramas. Could Farrelly win the People’s Choice Award again? I wouldn’t be stunned. Premieres 9/13.
“How to Blow Up a Pipeline”
Writer/director Daniel Goldhaber comes to Toronto this year with what sounds like it could be one of this year’s timeliest thrillers. At what point, does climate activism require drastic action? Haven’t we passed that point already given the consistent flow of stories about the state of the world? Goldhaber adapts the novel by Andreas Malm about an activist (Ariela Barer) who thinks we crossed that line long ago and is willing to turn to sabotage and violence to change the world. This project’s potential blend of character study, action thriller, and social commentary makes it one of the most intriguing of this year’s TIFF program. Premieres 9/10.
Pay attention, A24 hive. The beloved distributors have a smaller-than-average presence at this year’s fest, but one of their most interesting projects is this directorial debut from Elegance Bratton that will be a part of this year’s opening night. Bratton tells a story based on his own life, chronicling the emotional saga of a young man who joins the Marine Corps after being kicked out of his own home when he was only 16 by his homophobic mother. Jeremy Pope stars in a film that also boasts moving supporting turns from Bokeem Woodbine and Gabrielle Union. TIFF calls this “a heartfelt love letter to survival and staying true to oneself despite adversity on all fronts.” This could be one of the most powerful films of the year. Premieres 9/8.
“The Lost King”
Stephen Frears doesn’t get enough love. Sure, not all of his dramas work, but he’s been relatively consistent for almost four decades now, helming flicks such as “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Grifters,” “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” “Philomena,” and many more—and most of his movies play TIFF. The hard-working British director comes to Toronto this year with one of his best leading ladies in Sally Hawkins, who plays a writer who becomes obsessed with discovering the location of the remains of Richard III and even working to rehabilitate his reputation. Frears is an underrated director of performance, especially actresses, and so there’s a ton of potential in seeing how he collaborates with the wonderful Ms. Hawkins. Premieres 9/9.
Mark Mylod, part of the brain trust behind “Succession,” (hopefully) brings some of that show’s smart wit about class and society to this star-studded unpacking of the culture and personalities around haute cuisine. Ralph Fiennes stars as the chef at an estate that’s hosting an event so prestigious that it costs four figures per person. Anya Taylor-Joy is the attendee who sees through the façade that appears to captivate characters played by Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Janet McTeer, and more. The last phrase of the TIFF description for this one is impossible to resist: “savour the film’s brilliantly sinister pairings of status and guilt.” This Searchlight production feels like it has the potential to be a sneaky best-of-fest title when it premieres on 9/10.
Harry Styles fans are about to have an incredible fall festival season. His work in Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry, Darling” has been getting attention at Venice but it could be this more subdued character drama that really houses his best work of the year. Premiering next month on Prime Video, this is the tale of a policeman, played by Styles when he’s young and the great Linus Roache when he’s older, and the complex relationship he has with a teacher played by Emma Corrin and a museum curator played by David Dawson (and eventually Rupert Everett). Adapted from a hit novel, this queer romance should really allow the former One Direction star to show if he’s got the dramatic range to make the transition to legitimate actor. Premieres 9/11.
“Raymond & Ray”
Can we take a minute to appreciate Rodrigo Garcia? He’s one of the most underrated directors, focusing his talent on character studies in film like “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her” and “Nine Lives,” while also being prolific in Prestige TV like “The Sopranos,” “Big Love,” and “In Treatment.” He marks his sixth appearance at TIFF with this incredibly promising character study that centers Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke as brothers who haven’t spoken in years, forced back together to bury their father. McGregor and Hawke have been stuck in major blockbuster franchises lately and so the potential to see them get rich parts in a Garcia drama is very exciting, as is a supporting cast that includes Sophie Okenedo and Vondie Curtis Hall. Premieres 9/12.
This is all you need to know—Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley in a character study about a rich kid and his dominatrix. Sign us up. Abbott plays a young man who is about to inherit a hotel empire from his late father and Qualley plays the dominatrix who knows how to push his buttons. When he tries to end their relationship, a battle of wills plays out that TIFF claims is reminiscent of “Succession” in its dissection of modern power dynamics. We’ll quote them again because this is too rich to paraphrase: “Featuring spectacular performances from both actors, 'Sanctuary' becomes a blistering back and forth, where a man of the American aristocracy is finally confronted by the woman who is ready to collect her share.” Premieres 9/11.
We will be hitting a few docs at TIFF this year but most of them have already premiered elsewhere and so can’t make this list. That’s not the case of this promising bio-doc about one of the most important actors of all time: Sidney Poitier. Reginald Hudlin (“House Party”) shifts into non-fiction form and used Poitier’s own words to provide the narration for his life story. “Sidney” boasts an impressive array of interview subjects that includes Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, and many more. While he’s nearly beloved everywhere, it feels like we’re only now beginning to grasp the importance of Sidney Poitier to not just film history but social history. This movie should help that cause. Premieres 9/10.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”
The Midnight Madness program this year is typically exciting, and we plan to cover “Sisu” (from the director of "Rare Exports”), “Venus,” Ti West’s “Pearl,” “V/H/S/99” and maybe a few more, but the most exciting part of the program has to be this atypical biopic for an atypical star. Daniel Radcliffe steps into the big shoes of Al Yankovic in a film that plays almost like a satire of the genre, embracing its subject’s larger-than-life approach to art. Something else cool? Yankovic co-wrote it himself, so it should have his underrated wit and charm in every cinematic chord. Premieres 9/8.
“Wendell & Wild”
This one came out of nowhere and looks amazing. Henry Selick, the director of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline,” comes to TIFF this year with a new, original stop-motion spectacle that was co-written by Jordan Peele. Yeah. We know. Peele also stars in one of the lead roles, accompanied by, you guessed it, Keegan-Michael Key. A “Key & Peele” reunion in a dark stop-motion animated feature from the director of “Coraline”? We wouldn’t miss this for the world. Premieres 9/11.
“The Woman King”
There’s something so promising about a collaboration between Viola Davis and Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Old Guard”) and this one will actually be in theaters pretty soon, hopefully riding a wave of acclaim from its TIFF red carpet premiere. Davis stars in a film that’s set in 1823 in a West African kingdom known as Dahomey, protected by an all-female military regiment known as the Agojie. Davis plays the mentor to a young soldier played by the very promising Thuso Mbedu of “The Underground Railroad.” This one could rule not just the fest but theaters in the second half of September. Premieres 9/9.