The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival upon us, and we promise you don't have to be a diehard movielover who spends the week lined up on King Street to enjoy it.
If you’re new to the fest, don’t worry, we gotcha covered. We’re low-key obsessed with these buzzworthy movies making their premieres at TIFF. Some of them are destined for Academy Award greatness, some of them star some of the biggest celebs around, and some of them are homegrown Canadian talent making their festival debut! These are gritty, moving, infused with passion, loaded with meaning, and not to be missed.
What’s it about: Set during the Korean war, Devotion follows the story of Jesse L. Brown, the first Black naval aviator for the US Air Force.
Who’s in it: Jonathan Majors from the hit TV series Lovecraft Country stars in Devotion, and from the trailer alone, we are shook. And yup, that Joe Jonas is in it. Also Glen Powell from all your favourite romantic movies like Set It Up and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This isn’t the time Powell has played a man of the skies - he played John Glenn in Hidden Figures, and of course, he wowed us in Top Gun: Maverick.
Why is it buzzy: Based on the book of the same name, it is another welcome addition to the ongoing cataloging of Black Excellence in history and in cinema. These often-overlooked but never-forgotten Black heroes deserve to have their names and stories remembered, and this looks like an absolute nail-biter action-thriller. It’s almost entirely told from the air. Oh and did we mention Joe Jonas?
What’s it about: The rise to fame of the world’s best selling comedy musical act of all time. He’s “Like A Surgeon,” cutting for the very first time, he’s ”Fat” (schamon!), and he lives in an “Amish Paradise”. Wherever the world is bereft of big curly ‘do’s, mustaches, and accordions, he’ll be there, reminding you to “Smell Like Nirvana.”
Who’s in it: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Quinta Brunson and Rainn Wilson.
Why is it buzzy: Who doesn’t love Weird Al? The parodies! The accordion! He’s just so, as he sang, “White and Nerdy!” But naturally, Daniel Radcliffe just morphs into character here, and the internet nearly lost its collective mind when photos of Evan Rachel Wood as early-80s Madonna hit the internet.
What’s it about: This Canadian film by local Toronto writer and filmmaker Chandler Levack is a dramedy based on her experience working at a Blockbuster Video in the early 2000s. Socially inept, Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen) is a 17-year-old cinephile who gets a job at the Sequels video store (think Blockbuster!) in Burlington, Ontario. Anxious about his future (and desire to attend NYU’s Tisch School of Arts), Lawrence begins alienating the most important people in his life – his best friend (Percy Hynes White) and his single mother (Krista Bridges) – all the while developing a complicated friendship with his older female manager (Romina D’Ugo).
Who’s in it: Lots of local Canadian talent peppers this movie, and you might have already read or watched Levack’s work. She’s been published in The Globe and Mail and Eye Weekly, and she’s even been nominated for a few Juno Awards for directing music videos. Plus her short film Forgot to Break Up was part of TIFF in 2017
Why is it buzzy: The film is rife with references to Canada (Carleton, David Cronenberg) and cinema (mentioned in almost every sentence that Lawrence utters!). And there’s so much DVD/VHS nostalgia and glimpses of big movies of the recent past like Bollywood/Hollywood, Punch-Drunk Love, and Monster’s Ball.
What’s it about: The story follows a young woman who is forced to flee her home in the Mexican desert after the brutal murder of her mother. Carmen (Melissa Barrera) survives a terrifying illegal crossing into the US, only to be confronted by an altercation that results in her and border guard Aidan (Paul Mescal) – a Marine with PTSD – escaping together. They make their way toward Los Angeles in search of Carmen’s mother’s best friend Masilda (Rossy de Palma), the mercurial owner of La Sombra nightclub – a sanctuary of music and dance. Carmen and Aidan find both solace and their unwavering love for each other in the safety of Masilda’s refuge. But time is running out as the police close in. French choreographer Benjamin Millepied makes his directorial debut here. You might remember him from Black Swan which he also choreographed and performed in alongside Natalie Portman (his wife!)
Who’s in it: Melissa Barrera, Paul Mescal & Rossy de Palma. We have been in love with Paul Mescal (and his neck chain) ever since he floored us in the Normal People miniseries based off of Sally Rooney’s novel, so we can’t wait to see him tackle this new challenge. And in the event you didn’t know, director and choreographer Benjamin Millepied is married to Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman. They met on the set of Black Swan, and they share one son. She once famously joked on the Golden Globes stage that he totally wants to sleep with her. So there’s that.
Why is it buzzy: A modern retelling of the iconic opera Carmen, set under the current political landscape of refugees, migrants, and cross-border love? Yes please! This gritty modern-day tale comes with a majestic score by three-time Oscar nominee Nicholas Britell (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, Don’t Look Up), and dream-like dance sequences that evoke magic realism. We would expect no less from Benjamin Millepied, and we can’t wait to see Paul Mescal woo us with his dance moves. Also, for all you fans planning to line up at the TIFF red carpet, Benjamin will be there… will Natalie accompany him? Only one way to find out!
What’s it about: Williams (Bill Nighy) is a veteran civil servant who commutes by train to the office, where he pushes paper from one stack to another. At night, widowed and lonely, he goes home to his indifferent son and daughter-in-law. But when Williams learns that he has six months to live, he sets out to make a difference – with the help of two young idealists (Aimee Lou Wood and Alex Sharp).
Who’s in it: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke.
Why is it buzzy: Living is an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s seminal Ikiru (1952), and even retains the same post-World War II time period as Kurosawa’s, but moves from Tokyo to London. It’s written by Nobel prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, so you know it’s gonna be good. In fact, we are feeling true Oscar buzz on this one. Nighy will most likely get a Best Actor nom out of this, and we might even see Best Script Adaptation as well. Also, it’s directed by Oliver Hermanus (Moffie), and this film marks his first feature film not set in his native South Africa.
What’s it about: Sandra (Léa Seydoux) is raising her daughter (Camille Leban Martins) alone in Paris, while working as an interpreter and also caring her for father (Pascal Greggory), who’s even lost his taste for his beloved Schubert Sonata (D959). Her father desperately needs a good nursing home, not easy to find. Meanwhile, Sandra runs into a friend (Melvil Poupaud) and begins a passionate affair, although he’s married.
Who’s in it: Léa Seydoux, Camille Leban Martins, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud
Why is it buzzy: If you aren’t floored by two-time Bond girl Léa Seydoux, don’t forget she also made us all swoon in Blue is the Warmest Colour. This film won the Europa Cinemas Label (best European film in Directors’ Fortnight) at Cannes 2022. Shot on 35mm in Paris, the film is written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, who was partly inspired by the idea of mourning her own ailing father while he was still alive. Hansen-Løve continues to create strong female characters as she’s done in such films as Bergman Island and Things to Come. It’s rumoured that Léa Seydoux will walk the TIFF red carpet. Get your selfie sticks ready!
What’s it about: The documentary follows trail-blazing country singer (and now sexagenarian) Tanya Tucker as she records While I’m Livin’, her first album of original music in 17 years. Acting as both fan-girl and producer, six-time Grammy winner Brandi Carlile sits in the recording booth with Tucker, while fellow producer Shooter Jennings mans the control room. Many songs are mined from conversations that Carlile has with Tucker, like the now iconic “Bring My Flowers Now,” which Carlile pretty much writes on the spot.
Who’s in it: Tanya Tucker, Brandi Carlile
Why is it buzzy: It won the Audience Award in the 24 Beats Per Second program at SXSW 2022. Directed by Kathlyn Horan (who helmed Brandi Carlile’s music video for “Hold Out Your Hand”), the film also includes archival footage that covers Tucker’s first hit at age 13, her soaring career in the ’70s, her unsettling tabloid era, and her frowned-upon foray into rock – all this before self-imposed retirement after the death of her father/longtime manager.
What’s it about: So Much Tenderness follows a Colombian environmental lawyer who flees her native country after her husband is murdered. As a refugee forced to start over, Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald) rebuilds her life in Toronto with her tempestuous daughter (Natalia Aranguren), only to risk losing everything when her traumatic past re-surfaces.
Who’s in it: Noëlle Schönwald, Natalia Aranguren, Deragh Campbell, Kazik Radwanski, Brad Deane
Why is it buzzy: Toronto filmmaker Lina Rodriguez’s parents play Aurora’s, seen via video calls from Colombia. Rodriguez herself immigrated to Toronto from Bogota in 2000. Kazik Radwanski is himself an accomplished Canadian director, with his last effort Anne at 13,000 Ft wowing critics and audiences.
What’s it about: 752 Is Not A Number is the lone documentary on this list, and it follows Toronto dentist Hamed Esmaeilion’s 2½-year struggle to uncover the truth behind the missile attacks that downed Ukrainian Flight PS752 shortly after its takeoff from Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 on board. The victims included Hamed’s wife Parisa and nine-year-old daughter Reera, who were flying back from a quick trip to attend Parisa’s sister’s wedding. Within hours, Hamed is on a plane to Tehran – although trepidatious, given that he’s also a rising star in the contemporary Iranian literary scene with some novels banned by the Iranian government. Two weeks later, Hamed returns to Toronto with his family’s remains, determined to get justice for all of the families who are united by a common pain. As the spokesperson for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, he holds the microphone. But Hamed finds himself caught in a web of geopolitical intrigue, international politics, legal complexities, detractors and informants.
Who’s in it: Hamed Esmaeilion
Why is it buzzy: A Canadian production, the film is directed, written and produced by Toronto-based, Iranian-Canadian Barak Payami (behind the multi-award winner Secret Ballot).