The feature film lineup of the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival has been announced, and even a casual observer could note a focus on female filmmakers and filmmakers of color. Of the 17 Galas and 30 Special Presentations, 13 features are directed by women – including Claire Denis’ High Life, Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch, and Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun.
Awards season favorites were also noticeable, as ever, in the lineup: Barry Jenkins’ highly anticipated adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Steve McQueen’s star-studded Widows (above), and Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man are just a few of the eye-catching titles. And, never short on star power, the Roy Thompson Hall will have its share of A-listers this year: Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, Timothée Chalamet, Steve Carrell, Viola Davis, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ryan Gosling, Keira Knightley, Robert Pattinson, Lady Gaga, and Oscar Issac will likely make their way to Toronto in September.
Here are the titles that are likely to make the biggest noise come September.
Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki are the titular widows in this one, and we are so ready for it. The four women are forced to pull off an elaborate heist after their husbands go missing when a “job goes wrong,” and the action looks spectacular. Writer-director Steve McQueen’s (Shame, 12 Years a Slave) first foray into the action drama, the movie teams him with an all-star cast – Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, and Robert Duvall round out the leads in the film, which is based on a U.K. television series.
Claire Denis’ High life was not ready to screen in May at the Cannes Film Festival, but the final touches are now set for this sci-fi drama that marks the filmmaker’s English-language debut. The French director is joined by Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth, and longtime collaborator Juliet Binoche in a story that centers on criminals who are conned into a space mission to a black hole while being sexually experimented on by the scientists on board. Dark and dangerous, the movie looks to have a film noir-meets-Aliens vibe.
Indie Daring Timothée Chalamet shows no signs of slowing down. Since his Oscar-nominated role in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, he has been announced to play King Henry V in The King, Laurie in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, and is rumored to play Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Amazon’s Beautiful Boy, based on a pair of nonfiction books, tells the story of a meth addict’s road to redemption and sobriety from the perspective of his father. At CinemaCon, we got a first-hand look at the pivotal scene between Chalamet and Carrell that features prominently in the trailer, and we dare you to try holding back the tears. Expect both actors to be on tongue tips come awards season.
Barry Jenkins returns to TIFF with this follow-up to his Best Picture Oscar winner, Moonlight, which recently topped our list of the best LQBTQ films of all time. Surprisingly, Jenkins opted to world premiere at Toronto despite close ties to the Telluride Film Festival, a definite coup for Cameron Bailey and the TIFF programming team. The film is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s love story set in Harlem in the early 1970s, one of the writer’s most enduring and beloved works. Starring Ed Skrein, Pedro Pascal, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Regina King, and Brian Tyree Henry, Beale Street was penciled in just about on everyone’s Oscar’s shortlist moments after it was announced.
Dan Fogelman knows how to tug at the heartstrings, and even the trailer for Life Itself had us weepy. The This is Us showrunner made his directorial debut with Danny Collins in 2015, and while the film didn’t make waves at the box office, it was Certified Fresh at 77%. With his next feature film as a writer-director, Fogelman tackles family, fatherhood, and loss, and the filmmaker says he sees it as a tribute to his wife and mother. Oscar Issac, Olivia Wilde, and Mandy Patinkin star in the family drama that is sure to resonate with fans of his award-winning network series.
Police accountability and community activism take center stage in this feature adaptation of the award-winning YA novel from Angie Thomas. Amandla Stenberg plays Starr Carter, a 16-year-old prep school student from a lower-income black neighborhood whose life of code-switching is called into question when she witnesses the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager. This movie, along with Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs’ Blindspotting, is one of the first feature films to comment directly on the Black Lives Matter movement. Director-Producer George Tillman Jr. is behind the camera with Issa Rae, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie, Common, and KJ Apa joining Stenberg in front.
Melissa McCarthy takes her first big drama lead in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, adapted from Lee Israel’s true-life memoir, which details how the author went from struggling writer to notorious writer to forger and thief. An eccentric and tragic character, Israel began forging letters of deceased writers and actors as a way to make money when her writing career was flailing. Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller is in the director’s chair.
Warren Beatty better study up: Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins look set to spend another awards season battling it out for accolades. Chazelle is taking the safer option with the Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man, but the first trailer has many buzzing. Re-teaming with Ryan Gosling, Chazelle takes an intimate look at the first successful mission to the moon and the man behind the moment that inspired the country. Also starring Claire Foy, this is Chazelle’s first film after his Oscar-winning megahit La La Land.
In dual firsts, Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut and Lady Gaga makes her lead-role debut in this fourth take on the classic story. Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and now Lady Gaga have all portrayed a version of Esther – an aspiring singer who is plucked from obscurity by a famous and self-destructive rock star looking to reclaim his glory days. Early word from first screenings predicts nods for Cooper and Gaga, and the title track penned and performed by Gaga is a lock for Best Song consideration at the Oscars.
The Toronto International Film Festival is held September 6-16