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TIFF 2018: 16 Films We Can’t Wait to See, From ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ to ‘High Life’ and Many More

We’ve hand-picked over a dozen films we can’t wait to see, from the starriest of premieres to some unexpected offerings.

The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off this week, and with it, the next step of an-already very busy fall festival season. In preparation for the lauded festival, we’ve hand-picked 15 films we can’t wait to see, from the starriest of premieres to the most unexpected of offerings. This year’s TIFF runs September 6 – 16 in Toronto, Canada and will open with David Mackenzie’s “Outlaw King” and close out with Justin Kelly’s “Jeremiah Terminator Leroy,” with plenty of major picks running in between. Here’s what we’re most excited to see.

“Beautiful Boy”

Timothée Chalamet earned his first Oscar nomination earlier this year with “Call Me by Your Name,” and it’s possible the 22-year-old actor will have another nomination under his belt next year. The actor and co-star Steve Carell are being eyed as major acting contenders for “Beautiful Boy,” which makes its world premiere at TIFF. The film is the English-language debut of “Broken Circle Breakdown” director Felix Van Groeningen. Based on memoirs by Nick and David Sheff, the story centers around a son’s relationship with his father as he battles meth addiction. -ZS

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” helmer Marielle Heller snagged a slew of potential projects after her 2015 breakout starring Bel Powley, but she’s finally back in theaters this fall thanks to a long-gestating film that speaks to her fascinating with wild true stories and asks one big question: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” And what a movie to remind people how talented Heller is, thanks to a notoriously nutty story and the canny casting of Melissa McCarthy in a role that demands drama. Based Fox Searchlight Pictures release is based on Lee Israel’s autobiography of the same name — and with a Nicole Holofcener script to boot — the film unspools the crazy story of Israel (McCarthy), once a lauded celeb biographer who turned to fraud and plagiarism when her coffers dried up. And it wasn’t just stories or books she faked, but letters from famous people, which she then sold to unsuspecting buyers (and when she couldn’t fake a good letter, she’d steal and sell a real one). It’s a story screaming for a movie from someone like Heller, who knows how to blend honesty with empathy at every turn. —KE

“Cities of Last Things”

TIFF’s Platform section is typically the part of the festival that programmers champion more than any others, because it’s a tightly-curated selection of movies from confident directors at relatively early career stages whose work is likely to get people talking. While earlier Platform selections like “Jackie” and “Moonlight” have also shown the section’s potential to launch awards titles, it can also be a place for offbeat discoveries. “Cities of Last Things” seems to fall into that slot this time around. The Taiwanese movie enters TIFF with positive buzz about its innovative storytelling, which centers on a man whose life experiences are told in reverse. “Memento” can’t have all the fun. This one’s actually a sci-fi movie of sorts, starting in the future and ending in the present, which is such a neat premise that moviegoers will need to check it out just to see how director Wi Ding Ho pulls it all off.—EK

“Destroyer”

“Destroyer”

“Girlfight” and “The Invitation” filmmaker Karyn Kusama returns to the big screen with her most high-profile project yet: a star-studded thriller (though it has been referred to by TIFF, where it will have its international premiere, as  “genre-defying”) about an LAPD detective (Nicole Kidman) forced to reckon with her past in a cult-like group. As a bright-eyed young cop, Kidman’s Erin Bell was placed undercover with a strange gang in the California desert. Years later, when she encounters the gang’s leader, she must dig into her complicated past. The Annapurna film also stars Bradley Whitford, Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy, and Toby Kebbell, and if its vague synopsis doesn’t intrigue you enough, consider this: the film is just weeks away from debuting on the festival circuit, and we’ve yet to see a single piece of marketing. What’s about to be destroyed here? And who is doing the destroying? —KE

“Gloria Bell”

Chilean director Sebastian Lelio’s rousing 2013 drama about a single middle-aged woman who gets her groove back with a new romance transformed the filmmaker into an unlikely master of portraying complex and unconventional female movie characters. He went on to win an Oscar for “A Fantastic Woman,” but by then, the enthusiasm for “Gloria” had already lead him back to “Gloria.” This English-language remake takes a role originally brought to vivid life by Paulina Garcia and hands it to Julianne Moore, another actress who excels at portraying emotionally sophisticated women powering through various hardships. The new version, snatched up by A24 ahead of its TIFF premiere, reportedly follows the trajectory of the original movie quite faithfully; in this case, as it provides a vessel for one of America’s best working actresses, that’s a very promising sign. The cast also includes John Turturro and Michael Cera. —EK

“Halloween”

“Halloween” sequels have come and gone since the original changed the rules of horror scares back in 1978, from Steadicam POV shots and off-screen menace to jump scares. And creator John Carpenter has kept a greater distance with each succeeding rip-off — his breakout star Jamie Lee Curtis even apologized for her involvement in 1999’s “Virus.” But the chilling “Halloween” advance footage at CinemaCon and the involvement of David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride, producer Jason Blum, executive producer and composer Carpenter, and Curtis herself returning as still-traumatized Laurie Strode 40 years later has stoked audiences. In this sequel, Strode has been training to defend herself and wreak revenge when “Star Trek” mask-wearing Mike Myers breaks out of his mental hospital; even her kitchen island is rigged to hide a secret basement. She gets her chance when Myers makes a bloody escape, attacking a string of victims en route to Strode’s house. The movie will be revealed at its sell-out Toronto midnight world premiere on September 8 before Universal releases it nationally on October 19-AT

“The Hate U Give”

“The Hate U Give”

Fox 2000

When Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan dramatized the shooting of Oscar Grant III in 2013’s “Fruitvale Station,” it not only launched both talents towards their now-enormous success, but acted as a kind of harbinger for the current wealth of films about the African-American experience made by black creatives. Though bigger in size (the film is produced by 20th Century Fox), think of “The Hate U Give” as the little sister to “Fruitvale Station,” dramatizing the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in a package addressed to the very teenagers who must live with the fear of such an event. Based on the eponymous novel by Angie Thomas, which opened at number one on the New York Times young adult best-seller list in 2017, “The Hate U Give” follows 16-year-old Starr, who witnesses the shooting of one her best friends by a white police officer. Starr lives with her family in a mostly poor black neighborhood, but attends private school in a predominantly white suburb, and much of the novel deals with the stress she feels straddling this line. Amandla Stenberg (Rue from “The Hunger Games”) plays Starr in what is sure to be her most visible role yet. Directed by George Tillman, Jr. (“Notorious,” “Soul Food”), the movie also stars Regina Hall as Starr’s mother, Russell Hornsby as her father, Common as Uncle Carlos, and Issa Rae as a local community organizer. -JD

“High Life”

The most underappreciated master director working today, Claire Denis has found a way to put her stamp on a wide array of different type of films: vampire/horror (“Trouble Every Day”), Ozu-inspired family drama (“35 Shots of Rum”), artist searching for love comedy (“Let the Sunshine In”), and more.  “High Life” though features three firsts for Denis: a sci-fi film, shot on a soundstage in the English language. While not much is known about the film starring Robert Pattinson – beyond it being a story about a father and daughter struggling to survive in the isolation of deep space – it’s even more difficult to guess at what the director most closely associated with the poetic, free-form style of shooting on location will do in what sounds like the terrain of Kubrick and Tarkovsky. Yet, just the idea of Denis stepping into this type of large-scale production makes it one of the biggest must-sees of the year.  –CO

“Hold the Dark”

“Hold the Dark”

Netflix

“Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” director Jeremy Saulnier re-teams with favorite writer (and frequent star) Macon Blair for a decidedly less colorful thriller set in the bleakest corner of Alaska. The fun begins when a young boy is snatched up and devoured by wolves, and — judging by the extraordinary tension of Saulnier’s previous work — it’s safe to assume that things only go downhill after the boy’s mother (Riley Keough) invites a nature writer (Jeffrey Wright) to come and hunt down the murderous pack. Co-starring Alexander Skarsgård as the kid’s dad, James Badge Dale as the local sheriff, and a deep cast of Native American actors, “Hold the Dark” promises to deliver the same heart-in-your-throat breathlessness of Saulnier’s earlier films, but on a much, much bigger canvas. —DE

“The Hummingbird Project”

After “War Witch” and “Two Lovers and a Bear,” Kim Nguyen returns alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård for a story about a high-stakes fiber-optic deal. That premise may not immediately shout excitement, but Nguyen has proven himself an able director whose unique premises — “War Witch” followed a 14-year-old girl in an unnamed African country who was forced to become a child soldier — lend themselves well to his talents. With Salma Hayek rounding out the main trio on his latest, “The Hummingbird Project” could be worth flapping your wings over. -MN

“If Beale Street Could Talk”

“If Beale Street Could Talk”

Barry Jenkins was writing his adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 Harlem romance long before he made Oscar winner “Moonlight.” Reuniting with Plan B Entertainment (“12 Years a Slave”) and with backing from Annapurna, Jenkins cast his romantic leads with discovery Kiki Layne and “Selma” alum Stephan James. 25-year-old Layne beat out hundreds of rivals to play pregnant Tish, whose fiancé Fonny (James) is imprisoned for a rape he did not commit. Industry insiders were surprised to see Jenkins take his anticipated period drama to TIFF as an opening weekend World Premiere, rather than Telluride, which helped to launch “Moonlight.” With all the Oscar pundits assembled at Telluride, many consider Toronto to be the cuddlier venue. Jenkins is reuniting with several of his Oscar-nominated “Moonlight” collaborators, including producers Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Adele Romanski, editors Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, cinematographer James Laxton, and composer Nicholas Britell. The supporting cast includes Regina King, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, and Brian Tyree Henry. —AT

“In Fabric”

A sapphic giallo riff on “Certified Copy,” Peter Strickland’s gorgeous and well-leathered “The Duke of Burgundy” remains one of the best and most surprising films to premiere at TIFF in the last 10 years. Now the English filmmaker returns to Toronto with his first film in four years, and the premise alone is enough to convince us that we’re in for another gorgeously off-kilter and semi-scary little fable about the darkness that makes life worth living. A bit less romantic than Strickland’s pervious delight, “In Fabric” tells the story of a cursed red dress, and the potentially even more cursed clientele who swarm upon the (cursed) department store whenever the doors open for business. As the dress floats from person to person — starting with a bank worker played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and then going into stranger homes from there — we recognize that the bodies it fits best don’t get to wear it for very long. Promising a gnarly, domestic turn from Gwendoline Christie, and a dead-eyed cameo from Ben Wheatley regular Steve Oram (Wheatley executed produced), “In Fabric” has us hoping that Strickland is about to become the fall season’s hottest new designer. —DE

“Maya”

Still in her mid-30s, director Mia Hansen-Løve (“Things to Come,” “Eden”) already has five critically acclaimed feature films under her belt. Her films always have an incredible sense of setting, placing us in a moment and psychological space of her characters. This is what makes her new film “Maya,” about a French war reporter (Roman Kolinka) who seeks refuge in India after being held in captivity in Syria so intriguing. The promise of Hansen-Løve telling a story of “love and rehabilitation” – as the reporter starts a relationship with his godfather’s much younger daughter (Aarshi Banerjee) – set against the Indian landscape sounds like the perfect material for the director. That she is working with such a talented and expressive cinematographer, Hélène Louvart (“Beach Rats”), this time around makes it only that much more enticing. –CO

“Mid90s”

"Mid90s"

“Mid90s”

A24/YouTube

Jonah Hill’s career keeps expanding: A decade ago, he was the goofy breakout of “Superbad,” and seemed fated to linger in the broad comedy arena. Two Oscar nominations and many more dramatic roles later, and the cinephile has complicated his brand many times over, proving a versatility that transcends various genres and audience sensibilities with the one linking device being an eye for quality projects. Now, he’s applying that instinct to another phase of his career: Jonah Hill, filmmaker. The A24-produced “Mid90s” promises exactly what the title suggests: a period piece set in the era of grunge rock and skateboarders, built around the loosely autobiographical coming-of-age experiences of an alienated kid thrilled by the prospects of teen rebellion. Imagine a warm-hearted “Kids” and you’ll start to get the idea — and get excited for a charming nostalgia trip. One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, this confident first feature is poised to launch Hill’s career all over again. —EK

“Too Late to Die Young”

Dominga Sotomayor Castillo made one of the most striking debuts of the last several years with “Thursday Till Sunday,” and her latest sounds worth the wait. Set during Chile’s political unrest of 1990, “Too Late to Die Young” — which premiered earlier this summer at Locarno, where Sotomayor won Best Director — it likewise concerns a small family whose story begins in a car. Any new project from this sensitive, promising filmmaker would be an enticing prospect, but the fact that this one has already received such praise and left a larger festival footprint than “Thursday” is even more reason to be excited. -MN

“Widows”

“Widows”

Steve McQueen returns behind the camera for “Widows,” five years after “12 Years A Slave” won TIFF’s coveted People’s Choice Award and four years after it claimed best picture at the Oscars. “Widows” finds McQueen blending his signature style with more overt genre elements in this story of a group of widows who are forced to carry out the heist that killed their husbands. The combination of Viola Davis in the lead role and McQueen’s directing powers is almost too good to be true. The supporting is also a marvel, with roles for David Kaluuya, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, and many more. -ZS

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