The Toronto International Film Festival is ready for its comeback year. After two editions spent in hybrid mode, Canada’s glitziest cultural bonanza is back in full form, with hundreds of screenings across the city. Which means that ticket-buyers need all the help they can get in knowing where to focus their attention, and which films to keep on their radar post-TIFF. To that end, The Globe and Mail’s Arts team has been busy picking through this year’s slate to bring you our most anticipated TIFF 2022 titles. Catch ‘em all, if you can.
I Like Movies
I admit that I’m slightly biased here, as Canadian filmmaker Chandler Levack is a friend and colleague of mine at The Globe and Mail, where she writes witty, incisive film reviews for us on a freelance basis. But even if Chandler was my arch nemesis, I would still be forced to admit that her debut feature is an excellent achievement: hilarious, heartbreaking, genuine. Following a narcissistic teenage video clerk (Isaiah Lehtinen) and his jaded mid-30s boss (Romina D’ugo) in 2002-era Burlington, Ont., Levack’s microbudget masterpiece is one of the funniest, sharpest, and most perfectly cast films that I’ve seen this year. Bonus: It contains great running gags about both Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and the teenage horn-fest Wild Things.
After proving that he is still one of the most powerful directors working today with last year’s West Side Story, Steven Spielberg is returning to his roots with The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical tale about his own childhood in 1950s Arizona. TIFF scored a huge coup by securing the film’s world premiere – the first time that Spielberg has debuted a film in Toronto – and interest is sky-high as to how the impressive cast (Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch) will recreate their own director’s childhood memories. Oh, and David Lynch may or may not be playing Lawrence of Arabia filmmaker David Lean.
If nothing else, the world premiere of Rian Johnson’s whodunnit sequel will reveal just what happens when Netflix pays almost half-a-billion dollars for a quirky little mystery franchise. Daniel Craig returns as molasses-mouthed detective Benoit Blanc, though this time he’s in a more exotic locale than the first film’s rural mansion (that’d be sunny, production tax-incentivized Greece) and with even more colourful supporting actors-slash-murder-suspects (Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe and Kate Hudson, for starters). The first Knives Out was a come-from-behind hit at TIFF 2019, so all eyes will be on whether Johnson and his new streaming benefactors can again solve the mystery of how to please everyone all the time.
In 2020, Florian Zeller wowed critics with The Father, his English-language adaptation of his own French-language play about dementia. Narrative contradictions reproduced the confusion felt by an increasingly frail old man, played with magnificent pathos by Anthony Hopkins. So, in 2022, the intriguing dramatic question is how the director is going to reproduce that kind of acute psychological effect in this follow-up, a story about a young adult’s mental health. Zen McGrath plays Nicholas, a depressive adolescent whose divorced parents (Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern) are desperate to help but distracted by their own lives.
Maïmouna Doucouré's directing career was marred by the controversy over Netflix’s stupidly sexy poster for her debut feature Cuties in 2020, but thankfully she returns this year with another coming-of-age story from African Paris. Fifteen-year-old Hawa (Sania Halifa) faces the imminent death of her beloved grandmother and sole guardian. The plucky teen has the perfect solution: Michelle Obama is visiting the city and should adopt her. All that stands in her way are a few security guards. Hawa promises to be more broadly comic than Cuties, but equally sensitive about youth issues of self-determination, race and media.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Those who appreciated the odd couple pairing of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson way back 2008′s In Bruges will be eager to see them reunited for The Banshees of Inisherin, another vicious black comedy from director Martin McDonagh. And those who felt the British-Irish director had not entirely conquered the American heartland in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be pleased to see him return across the Atlantic. In a fictional town in Ireland in 1923, Colm (Gleeson) refuses to have his daily pint with his old mate Padraic (Farrell). A bloody feud ensues.
Bones of Crows
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a person becomes resilient. You can’t do it without suffering, but no one wants to suffer. Yet some people prevail, becoming human versions of kintsugi, the Japanese tradition of highlighting the cracks in ceramics with powdered gold. The real-life Cree matriarch Aline Spears is such a person. Born in the 1920s, Spears (played over decades by Summer Testawich, Grace Dove and Carla Rae) and her siblings were stolen from their home and subjected to state-sanctioned cruelty in residential schools. Still, Spears enlisted as a code talker in the Second World War, where she saved Canadian lives by speaking the Cree that the government tried to beat out of her. I look forward to watching her prevail.
Triangle of Sadness
Ruben Ostlund’s films make me deliciously nervous. He’s especially good at pressing on the delicate Achilles tendons of the privileged (see 2014′s Force Majeure and 2017′s The Square). The description of his latest, which won the Palme d’Or in May, has me aflutter: Self-obsessed celebrity models take a luxury cruise for the super-rich piloted by a louche captain (Woody Harrelson) who thinks he’s a Marxist. Guess what – things take a turn. The title, I’m gleeful to report, is what plastic surgeons call the worry lines between the eyebrows, before they Botox them away.
When Morning Comes
It’s one of the great pleasures of being a film critic: You begin to watch a piece of work you know almost nothing about, and suddenly feel all the little hairs on your arms and neck start to rise. That happened to me with Black Bodies, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s short from 2020, which used movement and voiceover to delve into racism and cultural expectations. It obviously happened to a lot of people – the short won a slew of awards and announced Fyffe-Marshall, who was born in England and moved to Canada at age 11, as a filmmaker to watch. This new work is her first feature, and it sounds like it expands her explorations into autonomy and belonging. Rambunctious young Jamal (Djamari Roberts) revels in his native Jamaica, but his single mother Neesha (Shaquana Wilson) thinks he may have a better life in Canada. I’m packing tissues.
Gabe Polsky previously brought us the compelling sports documentaries Red Army, Red Penguins and 2018′s superb In Search of Greatness. Now the American filmmaker concentrates on the Colorado Rockies. But hold on, it’s not what you might think – the Denver-based professional baseball is not involved. This one’s a Western, starring Nicolas Cage as a buffalo hunter who leads a Ralph Waldo Emerson-loving Harvard dropout (played by Fred Hechinger) into the mountains.
The great Brendan Fraser comeback starts here. It’s already been announced that the Mummy star will receive the TIFF Tribute Award for his leading role in The Whale, Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of a stage play about a morbidly obese writing instructor who seeks to reconnect with his daughter. The film’s title refers to the Moby Dick, Melville’s epic novel about obsessive quests.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever
In Peter Farrelly’s Green Book from 2018, a rough-cut Bronx bouncer played by Viggo Mortensen is tasked to chauffeur a Black pianist through a segregated America in the 1960s. Farrelly’s back at TIFF with another story about an unconventional delivery in the same era. In The Greatest Beer Run Ever, Zac Efron stars as a merchant seaman who accepts a barroom bet to bring a case of cold ones to U.S. troops In Vietnam.
The Woman King
Viola Davis as an African warrior slashing colonizer throats. Need I say more? Davis’s performance is bound to be exceptional as General Nanisca, leader of The Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries during the slave trade. And there’s nothing to beat the range of director Gina Prince-Bythewood, whose debut was one of the best sports movies to ever exist (2000′s Love & Basketball) before she moved on to beautifully intimate films such as The Secret Life of Bees, and became the first Black woman to helm a comic-book blockbuster with The Old Guard.
Anna Kendrick is usually associated with quirky comedies (Pitch Perfect) and hit-or-miss thrillers (A Simple Favor, Stowaway), so I’m curious to see her performance in what first-time director Mary Nighy has described as a “subtle, nuanced story about coercion and control.” This psychological thriller also has several Canadians at the forefront: it was written by Alanna Francis (The Rest of Us), co-stars Kaniehtiio Horn (Letterkenny), and was filmed in Toronto.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
This year’s opening Midnight Madness Film, Weird promises layers and layers of parody, with Daniel Radcliffe playing the famed White & Nerdy singer. With Yankovic onboard as a co-writer and producer, while Eric Appel (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) directs, this will surely be one of the most self-knowingly ridiculous films of the year.
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