Film festival season has arrived! As the Venice Film Festival rolls on, critics and fans have begun to direct their attention to the next event, the 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival! The festival will play host to a plethora of movies including the world premieres of films from James Mangold, Todd Phillips, Noah Hawley, Marielle Heller, Edward Norton, Alma Har’el, and more. With approximately 300+ films being showcased during TIFF 2019, the Talkies Network team has picked the most must-see films for people attending the festival. These include projects from both Hollywood as well as international offerings from the festival. So, without further-ado, here’s our picks for the most must-see films at TIFF 2019!
Edward Norton tries his hand at the quartet of filmmaking: writing, producing, directing and starring, in this 1950s-set crime drama, about a private detective living with Tourette syndrome who ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and best friend. Motherless Brooklyn is an inventive crime saga with a story that feels both rooted and universal. With a cast that also includes Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Willem Dafoe, you won’t want to miss this detective story with a hero that seeks answers for the murder, as well as his own origins.
Sing Me a Song
In 2009, documentarian Thomas Balmès filmed in the small country of Bhutan, nestled between India and China, before the mass onset of the internet. He focused on a seven-year-old Buddhist named Peyangki who lived in a monastery without electricity. Fast forward ten years later, and Balmès is once again back at the monastery. Only this time, he follows a 17 year old Peyangki now awaking to the alarm of the smartphone that is his constant tool for every minute of the day, even during prayers. A film filled with nuance, humour, and humanity, Sing Me a Song plays witness to the effects of technology in a country that kept it at bay for so long gives us a fresh lens to reflect on what it means to our own lives.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The story of acclaimed children’s entertainer Mr. Rogers returns to the big screen with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Drawing on Tom Junod’s Esquire article about his experience with Rogers, director Marielle Heller tells the story of a jaded journalist (Matthew Rhys) reluctantly accepts an Esquire assignment to profile the children’s television host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). As Lloyd shadows Rogers, the shallow profile he was planning turns out to be a momentous and meaningful encounter for both men.
Dreamworks Pictures makes a rare film festival appearance with their latest family-friendly feature, Abominable. From director Jill Cutlton, and featuring the voices of Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, and Chloe Bennet, the film recalls such beloved family adventure classics as E.T, and deals with themes such as love, friendship, and healing. This is the journey of clever teen girl and a Yeti as they rove the Himalayas in the hopes of reuniting the charismatic creature with his family.
Aided by an ensemble cast, including famed director David Cronenberg, Ottawa-born director Albert Shin brings his newest film, Clifton Hill, to TIFF 2019. Tuppence Middleton stars as Abby in this psychological thriller. Abby is a troubled young woman returning to her hometown of Niagara Falls, where the memory of a long-ago kidnapping quickly ensnares her. She is reunited with her estranged sister, Laure (Hannah Gross), and they work to settle their mother’s estate involving the sale of the family motel. Shin’s highly anticipated third feature is an intense drama, questioning structural systems in an idealistic setting, seen through the point of view of its dynamic female protagonists.
Ford V Ferrari
After delivering one of the best superhero films of all time with 2017’s LOGAN, James Mangold is back with his latest film, Ford V Ferrari. In this high-speed biographical drama, Matt Damon and Christian Bale star as Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, real-life racing superheroes. The underdog team come together for the 1966 “24 Hours of Le Mans” endurance race, as they seek to defeat Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), who seems to win “as easily as he downs an espresso.” With Mangold’s strong direction, and powerhouse performances from the two leads, Ford V Ferrari looks to be a nail-biting drama filled with grit and hope.
Drawing on his own life experiences, Shia LaBeaouf returns to TIFF with his heart-piercing portrait of childhood trauma and adult self-renewal, Honey Boy. Directed by Alma Har’el, Honey Boy opens with twenty-something Otis (Lucas Hedges) suffering a car crash while shooting a blockbuster spectacle. Following a session with a counsellor, Otis realizes he is suffering from PTSD. Intercutting with the present day story is flashbacks of a 12-year-old Otis (A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe), living in a seedy motel with his father, James (LaBeouf), who reacts to Otis’ acting success with abuse, but still remains loyal to his son. The film acts as a self-realization, borderline cathartic experience, for LaBeouf after several tumultuous years in the media.
Weathering With You
In his highly anticipated follow-up to to his 2016 anime box-office hit Your Name, Makoto Shinkai returns to the big screen with his newest fantastical tale, Weathering With You. Utilizing an old tale taken from Japan’s ancient Shinto myths, Shinkai’s story follows sixteen-year-old Hodaka, a runaway teenager who arrives penniless in rainy Tokyo. After he gets a job with Suga, a detective who runs a sketchy occult magazine, Hodaka is given a mission to track down a woman who has the power to control the weather. Shinkai mixes traditional Japanese elements with a modern city-scape in this thought-provoking narrative that shines a light on the topical issue of climate change.
Lucy in the Sky
Already proving that he is a master-storyteller on the small screen (Legion, Fargo), Noah Hawley makes his highly anticipated film-directorial debut with Lucy in the Sky. In this daring psychodrama dappled with humour and infused by mesmeric and memorable imagery, Natalie Portman stars as Lucy, an astronaut returning to earth. Upon arrival, she begins to o question her place in the universe — including her relationships with her gentle husband (Dan Stevens) and her charismatic crewmate (Jon Hamm). In her efforts to train for her next mission, her growing dissociation threatens to dismantle both her personal and professional lives.
Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger
In her stunning 53rd directorial-effort,Alanis Obomsawin tackles human rights for Native Americans with Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger. The story of a young boy born with rare muscle disorder known as Carey-Fineman-Ziter syndrome, Jordan River Anderson spent all five years of his short life in hospital while the federal and provincial governments argued over which was responsible for his care. Parallel to this is the long struggle of Indigenous activists to ensure the Canadian government enforces “Jordan’s Principle” — the promise that no First Nations children would experience inequitable access to government-funded services again.
A film that nobody saw coming, Taika Waititi brings his more daring film yet to TIFF 2019, Jojo Rabbit. In this anti-hate satire, Waititi commands an ensemble cast, including Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Scarlett Johansson, as he brings real heart and a surprising amount of emotional impact to this story of embracing humanity. Jojo Rabbit follows a young German boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his home and consults with his imaginary idiot of a best friend, Adolf Hitler (Waititi).
Just before Destin Daniel Cretton moves to the world of superheroes with Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, he brings his gritty and powerful law drama, Just Mercy. The story, based on the book by Bryan Stevenson, follows the Harvard-educated lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) who goes to Alabama to defend the disenfranchised and wrongly condemned — including Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man sentenced to death despite evidence proving his innocence. Bryan fights tirelessly for Walter with the system stacked against them.
It isn’t hard to see why director Rian Johnson decided to tackle a much smaller film following the massive reaction he caused with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Knives Out is Johnson’s take on the classic “whodunit” narrative, as he assembles an all-tar cast, featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, and LaKeith Stanfield. Johnson’s quick wit and talent for building suspense is fully on display in this genre-bending mystery tale. In this “whodunit,” famed southern detective Benoit Bloc (Craig) joins forces with local police to investigate a group of eccentric suspects following the murder of a wealthy crime novelist (Christopher Plummer).
Netflix seeks to continue its dominance over the film industry with Academy Award nominee Noah Baumbach’s latest drama, Marriage Story. Baumbach’s sophisticated plot goes back and forth through time, detailing a portrait of a marriage slowly breaking down. Charlie (Adam Driver) is a playwright who wants to stay in New York. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is an actor who’s landed a coveted television role that requires her to relocate to Los Angeles. As their marriage crumbles, and divorce proceedings being, each enlist legal squads deploying various tactics.
Following the footsteps of other game-changing comic book movies like The Dark Knight and LOGAN, Todd Phillips puts the spotlight on arguably the greatest comic book villain of all time, The Joker. In this gritty character study that also acts as a broader cautionary tale, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a man who dreams of being a stand-up comedian, and someone who longs to make people happy. But Arthur’s life is one filled with loss and misery, with his inner torment continuously eating at him. As he slowly descends further into madness, it is clear that this man in crisis will soon become the unhinged and psychotic killer known to many. Drawing on Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, as well as 1928’s The Man who Laughs, Phillips and Phoenix aim to turn the comic book movie genre on its head with this unsettling, and enthralling portrayal of the consequences that stem from a man disregarded by all.
Honourable mentions: The Lighthouse, The Friend, The Laundromat, Dads, I Am in the World as Free and Slender as a Deer on a Plain, and How to Build a Girl