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Illustration by Sarah Farquhar

Here is a distressing fact: from Oct. 6 through Nov. 10, there are only four major wide theatrical-only releases: Dumb Money, a new Exorcist, a faith-based drama called Ordinary Angels, and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon.

Blame the dual strikes rocking Hollywood – and direct your anger on that matter straight to the heads of the major studios and streamers who have let an entire summer pass without meaningful negotiations. But while the dearth of potential blockbusters might be a nightmare for theatre owners, it offers hope for audiences looking for something a little different, under-the-radar, and, dare this word be written, “original.”

Here are The Globe’s five best bets for fall films made outside the megabudget machine.

She Came to Me

There are at least four quirkier-than-quirk indie movies stuffed into director Rebecca Miller’s latest romantic comedy – but each one of those is still entertaining enough on its own to make She Came to Me an experience to remember, and vigorously debate afterward. Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, and a going-for-broke Anne Hathaway lead a cast of neurotic basket-cases trying to find happiness in New York, each equipped (or weighed down) by their own sexual hang-ups and genuinely unique occupations. (This might be the first, and last, movie to ever feature a lascivious tugboat captain.) Come for the Woody Allen-lite dialogue, stay to hear Hathaway pronounce the word “kreplach” (as in the Jewish soup dumpling) approximately five different ways in 35 seconds. (In theatres, Sept. 29)

Foe

I’ll forever treasure this quote from editor Martha Sharpe when describing the work of Canadian author Iain Reid: “It’s rare when you’re reading a manuscript and you’re the acquiring editor and you just scream out, ‘What the hell!?” Reid’s 2018 novel Foe captures just that kind of head-spinning discombobulation as it follows a marriage torn asunder when one half a couple is selected by a shadowy organization for a top-secret space mission. Now, Reid’s book has been turned into a starry feature film headlined by Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal, with Reid co-writing the adaptation alongside director Garth Davis (Lion). The book was a thriller, domestic drama, literary character study, and page-turning horror all at the same time – here’s hoping the film will offer that same sense of “what the …” surprise. (In theatres, Oct. 6)

Strange Way of Life and The Human Voice

It is the rare filmmaker who can coax moviegoers into a theatre for a short film, but Pedro Almodovar just might be able to accomplish the impossible when Sony Pictures Classics (and Mongrel Media in Canada) package two of the Spanish filmmaker’s new shorts into one evening of entertainment this fall. First up is the 31-minute Strange Way of Life, Almodovar’s Cannes-certified spin on Brokeback Mountain, starring Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke as two gunslingers (and maybe more) who reunite for a desert run after decades apart. After that, Almodovar acolytes will get the 2020 short The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton in the adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play about a woman undergoing a breakdown over her lover’s impending marriage. (In theatres, Oct. 6)

Fair Play

When director Chloe Domont’s feature debut premiered at Sundance earlier this year, a number of critics hailed it as the return of the American erotic thriller. I’m not exactly sure what film they were watching, as Fair Play is more an intense drama examining the politics of power, sex and money – eroticism itself, especially the thrill of the illicit that marked the likes of genre hallmarks Basic Instinct and Disclosure, is nowhere to be found here. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. Domont’s film following a young couple (Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich) whose engagement falls apart as one is promoted at their hedge-fund firm and the other falls behind is slickly powerful, when it isn’t just plain sickening. (Netflix, Oct. 13)

Saltburn

While 2020′s Promising Young Woman was not universally beloved, Emerald Fennell’s debut was the kind of uncompromising, unforgiving and nervy film that audiences need more of – if not to worship, then at least to debate and ignite difficult conversations. And there is a strong chance Fennell will spark that much more talk with her follow-up, following a college student (Barry Keoghan) who develops an obsession with his upper-class classmate (Jacob Elordi). Promising Young Woman star Carey Mulligan also pops up. (In theatres, Dec. 1)

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