We can only exclaim that the fall festivals “are back!” so many times before it ceases to be true, but in the case of the 2022 season, we’re still working well within the confines of rock-solid logic. The fall festivals are back! After unspooling as all-virtual affairs, truncated in-person gatherings, or some combination of the two over the last two years, the biggest fall festivals — Venice, Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the New York Film Festival — are all launching full-scale in-person events in the coming weeks.
And what a bevy of new films do they have to show off. This year’s fall festival season includes new films from Steven Spielberg, Frederick Wiseman, Laura Poitras, Martin McDonagh, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Andrew Dominik, Sarah Polley, Lena Dunham, Luca Guadagnino, Sam Mendes, Joanna Hogg, Chinonye Chukwu, Jafar Panahi, Todd Field, Darren Aronofsky, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Noah Baumbach, and that’s only the start. There are films about everything from fraught families to the price of fame, the magic of movies and the tragedy of time, whodunnits and why’d-this-happens, and so very much more.
Even better? Many of these films have already set release dates so that wider audiences may enjoy them, and we hope to unearth a few unclaimed gems to join them in our list of most-anticipated films below. And, as other films and festival lineups are announce in the coming days (looking at you, Telluride), this list will be updated accordingly.
David Ehrlich, Eric Kohn, Christian Blauvelt, Jude Dry, Ryan Lattanzio, Samantha Bergeson, and Christian Zilko contributed to this article.
“A Couple” (Venice, NYFF)
It’s debatable whether “A Couple” is actually the first narrative film from documentary legend Frederick Wiseman, since he made two previous films built around monologues. But it’s still safe to say that this is another bold creative swing from the veteran filmmaker, a tense and absorbing acting showcase with visual splendor to spare.
Based on the letters and diaries of Sophia Tolstoy, the wife of famous novelist Leo, the movie follows actress Nathalie Boutefeu as she wanders a lush garden and the nearby seaside, confronting her past and contemplating her future. It’s a powerful meditation on the value of solitude in clarifying one’s thoughts, which makes it all the more relevant in today’s post-pandemic landscape, and another reminder that Wiseman hasn’t lost any of his filmmaking magic in his ninth decade. —EK
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (Venice, NYFF)
Laura Poitras is a great documentary filmmaker at the height of her powers, but she’s also someone whose last feature — the Oscar-winning “CITIZENFOUR” — made the fatal mistake of casting Glenn Greenwald as its hero journalist, thereby elevating someone who’s since become one of the most toxic voices in all of political media. In that light, it’s a comfort to know that the subject of Poitras’ similarly urgent and exiting new film is unlikely to pull the same kind of heel turn.
The only film invited to play at every major festival this fall, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is a portrait of revered American photographer and activist Nan Goldin, whose life’s work has largely been dedicated to capturing post-Stonewall LGBT culture in this country, with a particular eye towards the HIV/AIDS crisis, More recently, Goldin has turned her lens towards the horrors of the opioid epidemic, which became all too personal for her when she grew addicted to OxyContin herself. Poitras’ film leverages the horror of that experience — and the irony that OxyContin is manufactured by people who’s donated billions to the institutions that support Goldin’s work — into a broader portrait of the artist and her survival in the face of overwhelming historical fears. —DE
Searchlight Pictures, exclusive to IndieWire
“The Banshees of Inisherin” (Venice, TIFF)
On both the stage and screen, nobody does nasty black comedies like Martin McDonagh. The British-Irish writer/director’s first feature since he won an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” finds him re-teaming with “In Bruges” stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in a bizarre two-hander about two pals, Colm (Gleeson) and Padraic (Farrell), on a small island off the coast of Ireland. Or, at least, they used to be two pals until Gleeson’s character suddenly ends their friendship for mysterious reasons.
The small-town community gets engrossed in this outrageous drama and its many turns, including a declaration by Colm that he’ll start mutilating himself each time Padraic reaches out — which feels like a throwback to McDonagh’s great “A Behanding in Spokane,” and a promising indication of the zany, disturbing twists that this playful filmmaker has in store as he once again turns empathy into a grand ironic joke. —EK
Just like his “Birdman,” the actual title of “Bardo” is much longer. It’s really “Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths).” And like with “Birdman,” Alejandro González Iñárritu says he’s delivering an “epic comedy.” Little is known about the plot, but Daniel Giménez Cacho plays a journalist and Iñárritu shot the film over five months last year in Mexico City. Darius Khondji is handling DP duties after Bradford Young had been believed to be involved with the production initially, and it’ll shake up the Iñárritu style: Emmanuel Lubezki had shot the director’s last two features.
It’s also been a while since we’ve seen a new Iñárritu picture: “The Revenant,” and its three Oscars (including a second Best Director in a row for the Mexican auteur), was seven years ago now. With Netflix handling the release and positioning it for Oscar season, there’s no reason to assume the film, premiering at prime awards season launchpad Venice, won’t go far. —CB
Well, it’s finally here. More than three years since it began shooting, more than 12 years since it was first announced, and more than 203 news cycles (give or take) about its graphic content and/or controversial leading lady Ana de Armas, Andrew Dominik’s NC-17 Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde” is finally going to materialize on Netflix towards the end of September after premiering at the Venice Film Festival just a few weeks prior.
Like virtually all of Dominik’s previous work (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” most of all), this movie already seems both mega-hyped and semi-forgotten in the same breath — destined to be derided and memed to death before its eventual recognition as something indispensable. In this case, that would be a fitting tribute to its subject, whose private torment Dominik’s film is sure to capture in unsparing detail over the course of 166 minutes. —DE
“Bones and All” (Venice, NYFF)
Call Timothée Chalamet a cannibal if you dare: The Oscar nominee reunites with “Call Me by Your Name” auteur Luca Guadagnino for the highly-anticipated twisted love story between a ravenous couple on the road, played by Chalamet and “Waves” breakout Taylor Russell. “Suspiria” scribe David Kajganich adapted “Bones and All” from Camille DeAngelis’ novel of the same name.
Amid the underbelly of Ronald Reagan’s America, Maren (Russell) and Lee (Chalamet) will do anything it takes to survive across a thousand-mile road trip…including devour those in their path. “Bones and All” will premiere at the Venice Film Festival followed by a Spotlight screening at the New York Film Festival. Director Guadagnino described the insatiable romance at the beating heart of the film as an “extreme” take on the “intensity and impossibility of love.” And yes, Guadagnino quite bluntly put it: “Bones and All” will gnaw at you due to the very “literal aspect of it being a movie about cannibal lovers.” Sink your teeth into that. —SB
After years carving out his niche as an endlessly memeable cranky loudmouth in “Billy on the Street,” Billy Eichner is finally hitting the big time. Firsts can be tricky to pin down, but it’s looking like “Bros” will be the first gay rom-com from a major studio to star out gay actors in both romantic leads.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller, who co-wrote the script with Eichner, the movie follows a cantankerous podcast host who seems allergic to love. When he meets a hunky muscle gay (Luke MacFarlane) he considers way out of his league, sparks fly despite his best efforts at staying alone. Executive produced by Judd Apatow and starring a flashy ensemble of mostly queer cast, “Bros” could be a major turning point in the mainstream appeal of LGBTQ stories. —JD
“Catherine Called Birdy” (TIFF)
Lena Dunham has been busy. After making her Sundance 2022 entry “Sharp Stick” in relative secrecy during the early days of the pandemic, the “Girls” creator soon turned her attention to her biggest production yet: an Amazon-backed adaptation of the beloved YA novel “Catherine Called Birdy” from author Karen Cushman. But what does Dunham, voice of millennial ennui, know about the trials and tribulations of being a medieval teen? Turns out, plenty, and the filmmaker’s fourth film promises to be her best yet, taking her unique perspective and funneling it into an unexpected package.
“Game of Thrones” breakout star Bella Ramsey stars as the eponymous Catherine (AKA Birdy), a riotous (and possibly even revolutionary) teen girl growing up in medieval England. Turns out, being a girl has always been a bear, and Dunham’s witty approach to coming of age is beautifully suited for Birdy’s sensibilities, as she attempts to carve out a place for herself in a world wholly unready for her desires. Dunham adds a few anachronistic touches, proving just how hilariously this story translates to even contemporary audiences, and Ramsey is a wonderful match for the plucky role. Co-stars include “hot priest” Andrew Scott as Birdy’s dim dad, Joe Alwyn as her cute uncle, and Billie Piper as her beloved mom. —KE
Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence stars as a soldier struggling to adjust to civilian life in New Orleans after returning home from combat in Apple Original Film “Causeway,” produced by A24 and Lawrence’s Excellent Cadaver, along with IAC Films and IPR.VC. “Causeway” co-stars Tony and Emmy nominee Brian Tyree Henry, along with “Only Murders in the Building” alum Jayne Houdyshell. Director Lila Neugebauer makes her feature debut after helming episodes of “Maid” and “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” as well as executive producing the film. “Causeway” is written by novelist Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders.
After “Causeway,” Lawrence is expected to star as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in Adam McKay-directed biopic “Bad Blood,” as well as lead “No Hard Feelings” and Paolo Sorrentino’s mafia informant drama “Mob Girl.” —SB
Stephen Williams hasn’t made a feature since 1999’s “Milgaard,” but you’ve likely seen plenty of his work all the same — he’s directed episodes of everything from “Watchmen” and “Westworld” to “Lost” and “Las Vegas.” Needless to say, he’s more than earned the chance to take a big swing on a lavish historical biopic, which is exactly what he’s done with “Chevalier.”
Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as 18th-century violin virtuoso and conductor Joseph Bologne, who stood out from contemporaries like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on account of the fact that he was the son of a white plantation owner and his wife’s 16-year-old Senegalese slave. “Chevalier” chronicles Bologne’s singular ascent from the depths of anonymity to the heights of the podium at the Paris Opera, a journey littered with prejudice but also propelled by romance (the objects of Bologne’s affections are played by the likes of Minnie Driver and Samara Weaving) before it’s eventually undone by palace intrigue (Lucy Boynton subs in for Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette). It’s an incredible true story, and hopefully one told with enough panache to leave us hoping that Williams won’t wait another 23 years to make his next film. —DE
“Don’t Worry Darling” (Venice)
Harry Styles and Florence Pugh are a match made in heaven…or in a Victory lab, but really it’s the same thing, right? “Don’t Worry Darling,” the mind-bending funhouse reflection of a ’50s suburban utopia helmed by director Olivia Wilde, is set to debut at the 2022 Venice Film Festival before hitting theaters this September.
Pugh stars as Alice, a housewife who becomes suspicious of her charming husband Jack (Styles) and his corporate colleagues, including Victory leader Frank (Chris Pine). Soon, Alice starts to chip away at her seemingly perfect life, finding its hollowness within. But just to what end is Alice willing to risk it all to expose the truth? (And, uh, what is the truth?) Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Sydney Chandler, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali, Douglas Smith, Timothy Simons, and Ari’el Stachel also star in the psychological drama from a screenplay written by Katie Silberman, based on a story by Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke, and Silberman. —SB
“Empire of Light” (TIFF)
It’s been a minute since Sam Mendes directed a movie that might be regarded as personal — the Englishman followed his lo-fi 2009 road trip dramedy “Away We go” with two “Bond” mega-blockbusters, a one-take war epic, and a boatload of glitzy Broadway productions — but “Empire of Light” appears to find him making up for lost time. Easily (and, one would hope, reductively) described as Mendes’ “Belfast,” the Searchlight drama stars Olivia Colman, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth in a story that takes place in and around an English coastal cinema during the 1980s.
Billed as a tribute to the human spirit and the magic of the movies (imagine a cliffside “Cinema Paradiso” with a stiff upper lip), and shot by Roger Deakins (whose images don’t need any schmaltz or soaring music to argue for the majesty of film), “Empire of Light” seems poised to determine if history will remember Mendes as a refined studio director, or as a singular artist who saw the big screen as his canvas. —DE
“The Eternal Daughter” (Venice, TIFF, NYFF)
The ever-versatile Tilda Swinton does double duty as mother and daughter in British auteur Joanna Hogg’s follow-up to her two-part wonder “The Souvenir.” Once again, the director draws on her own life, this time with a Gothic twist, with Swinton inhabiting the experiences of a middle-aged filmmaker as well as the woman who brought them up. Their experiences are intertwined in a dreamlike journey to a strange, isolated hotel where their days together grow increasingly haunting and enigmatic.
Hogg, who excels at creating atmospheric studies of alienation and desire on many levels, seems to have funneled that ability into a fresh genre direction that should please fans of her work and invite some new ones in as well. —EK
“The Fabelmans” (TIFF)
The tagline for Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” may as well be, “You’ve seen the movies, now meet the man.” At the age of 75, the world’s most revered commercial filmmaker seems to have finally made his very own “Roma,” a tribute to childhood and the obsession with cinema that led to his iconic filmography. The cast is intriguing enough, with Paul Dano and Michelle Williams as the director’s parents, Seth Rogen as his uncle, and Gabrielle LaBelle as the semi-fictionalized Spielberg dubbed Sammy Fabelman.
But what’s “The Fabelmans” actually about? Spielberg shares a writing credit with his usual late-period collaborator Tony Kushner, so it’s safe to assume the movie isn’t some covert “E.T.” sequel and more invested in the affection for movie magic in personal terms. Spielberg’s more recent undertakings, “West Side Story” and “Ready Player One,” have demanded a much larger scale than this one promises — but hopes are high that “The Fabelmans” won’t just help explain Spielberg’s filmmaking ambition; it will provide a welcome excuse to revisit it in all its splendor. —EK
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (TIFF)
Detective Benoit Blanc is back! And, this time, he’s got a cadre of big-name stars in a wonderful locale all trying to beat the wrap on a twisted mystery. Rian Johnson’s delightful “Knives Out” was both a massive hit and a true treat, and now the filmmaker brings his burgeoning franchise to Netflix, who is all in on letting Daniel Craig solve all the Hercule Poirot-like mysteries he can, with a staggering array of big names to assist him (or, more likely, try to block the wily investigator).
In the first sequel, Blanc travels to Greece to peel back the layers of a mystery involving a new cast of colorful suspects. Those suspects include characters played by Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista. Netflix announced in March 2021 that the streamer was purchasing the rights to the “Knives Out” franchise and greenlighting two sequels in a deal worth an estimated $450 million, making it the biggest film purchase in Netflix history. Crime does pay! —KE
“The Good Nurse” (TIFF)
Danish director and “Another Round” screenwriter directs his first feature since 2015’s Oscar-nominated “A War” with “The Good Nurse,” also marking his English-language debut. The film is adapted from the 2013 book by Charles Graeber, whose confidential informant Amy Loughren cracked the case on American serial killer and nurse Charles Cullen, who killed as many as 300 patients between 1988 and 2003 in New Jersey via intravenous drug overdoses. Eddie Redmayne plays Cullen, with Jessica Chastain taking on the role of Loughren with a cast that also includes football player turned actor Nnamdi Asomugha, Noah Emmerich, and Kim Dickens.
Cullen is still serving a life sentence as law enforcement continues to identify his many victims. Surprisingly, aside from a direct-to-TV movie, a documentary for British TV, and a smattering of podcast episodes, his horrifying killing spree has yet to get the big screen treatment. Loughren, a nurse, connected the dots in 2003 after tracking Cullen’s records of obtaining drugs and his ties to myriad patient deaths.
“The Good Nurse” marks Jessica Chastain’s first big-screen (kinda, as this is a Netflix release after all) role since she won her Best Actress Oscar for another true story, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” She wowed on HBO’s Ingmar Bergman miniseries remake “Scenes from a Marriage” but didn’t end up with a Primetime Emmy nomination alongside her nominated co-star Oscar Isaac. —RL
“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” (TIFF)
Daniel Goldhaber, director of 2018’s terrific “Cam,” returns with an environmental heist film that’s been described as a cross between “Ocean’s Eleven” and Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves.” Ariela Barer stars as Xochitl, a newly orphaned climate-change activist who’s grown frustrated at the failures and limitations of peaceful protests, and decides — with the help of some fun new friends — to make good on the title of Goldhaber’s movie, and that of the Andreas Malm book on which it’s based.
Produced by “Cam” writer Isa Mazzei and boasting a killer young cast that also includes the likes of Kristine Froseth, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, and “The White Lotus” breakout Lukas Gage, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” promises to bring heist movies into the 21st century without compromise or apology. —DE
“The Inspection” (TIFF, NYFF)
A former marine who was kicked out of his house for being gay at 16 — and then spent 10 years on the streets before joining the corp — emerging filmmaker Elegance Bratton has used his personal experience as a lens into powerful stories about similarly marginalized people, most recently in his 2019 documentary “Pier Kids,” about the lives of Black, homeless queer and trans youth who live on the Christopher Street Pier.
Bratton’s narrative feature debut finds him continuing to mine the details of his own life to a certain extent, as “The Inspection” tells the story of a Marine Corps enlistee (Jeremy Pope) who’s subjected to severe hazing from his training instructor and a fellow recruit (Bokeem Woodbine and Raúl Castillo, respectively) because of his sexual orientation. Selected as the closing night film at this year’s New York Film Festival — a massive vote of confidence — and slated to be released by A24 as one of the distributor’s marquee fall titles, “The Inspection” is poised to mark the arrival of a major new artist. —DE
“Is That Black Enough for You?!?” (NYFF)
Former film critic Elvis Mitchell’s first feature promises a sprawling look at the explosion of Black cinema in the 1970s, ranging from the blockbuster hits of Blaxploitation to arthouse sensations like “Killer of Sheep.” Filtered through the lens of his own upbringing, the movie promises to correct the canon of film history by positioning the dominance of Blackness onscreen in tandem with other major developments within Hollywood and on its margins.
Having served not only as a writer but curator and radio host over the years, Mitchell has developed a penchant for speaking with major directors and stars, who get a voice here, too: The movie compliments its historical journey with a list of interviews that includes everyone from Laurence Fishburne and Samuel L. Jackson to Zendaya. The Netflix release is poised to do well on the platform in the wake of Kino Lorber’s “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” package performing on the service a few years back, and should inspire the industry to think harder about how much Black filmmakers and actors have played a central role in its success. —EK
“A Jazzman’s Blues” (TIFF)
Tyler Perry’s relationship with Netflix is proving to be fruitful. He first went to the streamer with 2020’s “A Fall from Grace,” which proved to be Cicely Tyson’s last movie. Earlier this year, he brought “A Madea Homecoming” to the service. And now he’s about to deliver a new film which he’s had on the back-burner for much of his career: Perry first wrote the screenplay for “A Jazzman’s Blues” in 1995, after the then twenty-something had his breakout stage hit with “I Know I’ve Been Changed” but before he’d made the leap to movies.
Intriguingly, the film, which stars Joshua Boone, Solea Pfeiffer, Brent Antonello, Brad Benedict, and Ryan Eggold, is going to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival first. It’s an auspicious sign for what’s clearly a very personal project: since first writing it, he’s tried to get “A Jazzman’s Blues” made over the years, with The Hollywood Reporter first saying that Lionsgate was going to put it into production in the summer of 2007. Maybe the wait will be worth it. —CB
South African director Oliver Hermanus is getting his due attention stateside following his astonishing Apartheid-era gay drama “Moffie” from 2019. “Living” pairs Hermanus with screenwriter and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (ever the master of devastating tomes like “Never Let Me Go” and “The Remains of the Day”) for a 1950s London spin on Akira Kurosawa’s end-of-life story “Ikiru.” That film was in turn inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Here, Bill Nighy plays a bureaucrat reflecting on his life when faced with a terminal illness. “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” actress Aimee Lou Wood, stage actor Alex Sharp, and “The Souvenir” breakout Tom Burke round out the cast.
Hermanus was tapped to direct after passing through a grilling from Ishiguro, who also vetted Nighy for the role after a night out in London nerding out over the British films from the 1930s through ‘60s. “Living” looks to be the sort of Sony Pictures Classics title that aims straight for the hearts of voters and older audiences, an elegiac look at a life lived (and not), led by a veteran British character actor getting the starring vehicle he so deserves. —RL
“My Policeman” (TIFF)
Based on Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel of the same name, “My Policeman” follows three young people caught up in the tortuous constraints of 1950s social conventions. Set in Brighton in 1957, Harry Styles plays a gay policeman married to schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin), who falls in love with museum curator Patrick (David Dawson).
Their intertwined tragic love story spans decades, with Linus Roach, Gina McKee, and Rupert Everett playing the lovers in their old age. Celebrated British theater director Michael Grandage steers the emotional drama, and all eyes will be on Styles to see if he can deliver the performance the material requires. —JD
“No Bears” (Venice, TIFF, NYFF)
Jafar Panahi has been defying a ban by the Iranian government to make movies for years, but the country finally arrested him on trumped-up charges earlier this year. Fortunately, he already had another movie bound for festivals, and buzz is strong for “No Bears,” which finds the ever-innovative filmmaker tracking two love stories, while casting himself at the center of the drama.
Ever since “This Is Not a Film,” Panahi has invoked his own filmmaking struggles with his work (including the Berlin-winning “Taxi”). Now, his story finds him simultaneously directing a movie in Turkey and contending with local politics involving a romance there. Expect the usual Panahian flourishes — pure narrative innovation with sociopolitical themes to spare — and you’ll never be disappointed. There is no better way to remind the world that Panahi deserves justice than to have another great film from him making the rounds. —EK
“Pearl” (Venice, TIFF)
In the midst of shooting his A24 horror movie “X” in New Zealand, Ti West had a revelation. His cabin-in-the-woods slasher already had a full set built in New Zealand with a crew from the upcoming “Avatar” sequel on break from their bigger gig. Why not keep it going? And so he wrote “Pearl,” an ambitious surprise prequel to his ’70s-set ruckus that found a bunch of porn filmmakers in rural Texas facing off with the murderous elderly couple who own the place. Mia Goth did double duty as both porn star Max and the wild-eyed killer Pearl, the latter of whom was buried under reams of makeup to disguise the performance.
But what a performance! Pearl steals the show as a geriatric maniac hellbent on taking all these sinners down. The movie’s dizzying finale was a jolt of bloody mayhem but left many questions, including: Who the hell was Pearl? Now comes the prequel with answer, and it’s a doozy: Shot in a Technicolor style and set in 1918, the new movie promises a disorienting subjective plunge into the mind of a young woman who dreams of movie stardom and goes mad in the process. Expect a visually dazzling genre experiment from one of the most innovative horror directors this century has on offer, while bearing in mind that West already has another sequel in mind so this chilling story is just getting started. —EK
“She Said” (NYFF)
Will there be a starrier premiere than when Maria Schrader’s “She Said” debuts at the New York Film Festival in the coming weeks? Or, put more succinctly, will there be a weirder premiere? The film, which is based on the bestselling memoir “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement,” follows New York Times journalists Megan Twohey (played by Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (played by Zoe Kazan) as they attempt to crack open the case against Harvey Weinstein, eventually igniting what we’d come to know as #MeToo.
The film will reportedly take a “Spotlight”-like approach to the material — i.e. digging into the meticulous, often heartbreaking nature of good journalism — and (we’re just guessing here) will likely make some of Weinstein’s former compatriots feel pretty damn bad. Good! The story behind Twohey and Kantor’s work is a thrilling, necessary one, and with these two actresses playing the parts, we’re guaranteed an acting showcase to boot. While it promises to be one of the tougher sits of the season, it’s also one of the most essential. —KE
“The Son” (Venice, TIFF)
French playwright turned Oscar-winning screenwriter returns to his stage trilogy he first adapted to the screen with 2020’s “The Father” for “The Son.” The Sony Pictures Classics drama is expected to shake up the awards race with bows in Venice and Toronto. (The film will not, however, be headed to Telluride, as it’s billed as a TIFF North American premiere.)
As with “The Father,” “The Son” finds a family grappling with the past as 17-year-old Nicholas (breakout star Zen McGrath) moves in with his father Peter (Hugh Jackman) two years after a bitter divorce from Kate (Laura Dern), with whom Nicholas no longer feels safe living. But Peter is now living with Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and a new baby, and things come to a head when Peter is offered a dream job in Washington and buried mistakes of yesteryear resurface.
Zeller also reunites with Anthony Hopkins, the “Father” Best Actor upset winner over Chadwick Boseman last year, for this drama about a teenager in the throes of a mental health crisis. Zeller co-wrote the script with British playwright Christopher Hampton, also an Oscar-winning co-writer on “The Father.” That film took an almost Lynchian approach to realizing the subjective experience of dementia through Hopkins’ eyes; expect “The Son” to be an equally unsettling chamber experience set in tight spaces. —RL
“The Swimmers” (TIFF)
Opening this year’s TIFF, Sally El Hosaini’s fact-based Netflix drama follows the journey of a pair of elite swimmers sisters from war-torn Syria all the way to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Of the choice, TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey commented, “‘The Swimmers’ was the very best kind of surprise when we saw it this summer — an exciting, epic journey and the arrival of an important filmmaker.” It also sounds like just the kind of crowdpleaser to open up this year’s TIFF in happy style after two years of mostly virtual programming. The cast includes Manal Issa, Nathalie Issa, Ahmed Malek, Matthias Schweighöfer, Ali Suliman, Kinda Alloush, James Krishna Floyd, and Elmi Rashid Elmi. —KE
“TÁR” (Venice, NYFF)
“In the Bedroom” (2001) and “Little Children” (2006) established Todd Field as one of the most exciting American filmmakers of his generation, only for him to immediately disappear from the scene altogether. Now, after the almost Malickian absence that followed the release of his first two features, Field is back with his third: An 158-minute original drama starring Cate Blanchett as a renowned conductor and composer whose life begins to crumble as it crescendos towards a pivotal concert.
Details about “TÁR” are few and far between at the moment — though the film’s cryptic teaser suggests that we’re in for something characteristically hyper-literate and intense — but the promise of Field picking up where he left off is enough to make this one of the fall’s most anticipated premieres. That Blanchett, in what sounds like another major role, will be supported by the likes of Nina Hoss and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Noémie Merlant only adds to the sense that we should be in for something special. —DE
In 2019, Chinonye Chukwu had everyone paying attention with the riveting drama “Clemency,” which featured a powerful performance from Alfre Woodard as the tireless warden of a death row prison. While “Clemency” was fictional but drawn from reality, Chukwu takes on one of the greatest injustices in American history with “Till.”
The historical drama chronicles the life of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, and her lifelong quest for justice after the 1955 lynching of her 14-year-old son. The film stars relative newcomer Danielle Deadwyler (“The Harder They Fall”) as Mamie, in a performance that could certainly catapult her onto the awards circuit. Whoopi Goldberg, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Jalyn Hall also star. —JD
“Weird: the Al Yankovic Story” (TIFF)
With seemingly every major musician of the past 50 years getting the biopic treatment these days, two things were inevitable: 1) Someone would make a movie about “Weird Al” Yankovic, and 2) It would be infinitely wackier than the likes of “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That will indeed be the case when Roku rolls out “Weird, the Al Yankovic Story” this fall.
The film tells a semi-fictionalized account of Yankovic’s rise to stardom, with Daniel Radcliffe donning the Hawaiian shirt and accordion to play the legendary parody artist. Radcliffe has spent his post-“Harry Potter” years quietly carving out a niche for himself as an indie film star who revels in delightfully bizarre projects. Though playing Weird Al is his highest profile role since he put down his wand, the material is firmly in his new wheelhouse.
The actor recently said Eric Appel’s film (which Yankovic co-wrote), is as weird as anything he’s ever done. “I did one shot the other day and Al walked up to me afterward and was like, ‘Is that the weirdest thing you’ve ever had to do?’” Radcliffe said. “I was like, ‘It’s top two, with the only other one being Paul Dano riding me like a Jet Ski at the beginning of ‘Swiss Army Man.’” With that description, it sounds like the film is already in good company. —CZ
“Wendell and Wild” (TIFF)
Can’t wait for more Jordan Peele after “Nope”? You won’t have long to wait: not only has he co-written the screenplay for stop-motion maestro Henry Selick’s first film in 13 years, he’s voicing one of the leads in this “Key & Peele” reunion with Keegan-Michael Key. Key is Wendell and Peele is Wild and they’re demons who need the assistance of young Kat Elliott (teenage “This Is Us” actress Lyric Ross) to make their way to the Land of the Living. Angela Bassett, James Hong, and Ving Rhames lend their voices as well.
It sounds exactly like the kind of Gothic fantasy for kids that powered Selick to global renown with “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline.” Selick had originally intended for this story to be a book, written with Clay McLeod Chapman, but he has such an eye for textural, immersive beauty it’s hard to imagine it any way but as a movie. “Wendell and Wild” is also a big score for Netflix, which will debut the film at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. —CB
“The Whale” (Venice, TIFF)
In everything from his debut “Pi” to “The Wrestler,” Darren Aronofsky has excelled at disguising sensitive portraits of broken men as disturbing psychological thrillers. That tendency is once again on display with “The Whale,” an adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play about an obese man who attempts to reunite with his estranged teenage daughter after abandoning her for his late gay lover. Aronofsky’s first outing with A24 is intriguing enough given the filmmaker’s track record and the acclaim for the play — but the movie’s real ace-in-the-role is Brendan Fraser as its lead.
The actor has quietly launched a new career chapter that was somewhat visible in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” but is almost certain to reach a whole new level here. As the overweight man in question, Fraser is poised to give an astonishing, warts-and-all performance as the 600-pound protagonist that’s reportedly queasy and poignant in equal measures. The only question is what to call his inevitable career revitalization, but “the Brendan Fraser renaissance” will do for now. —EK
“White Noise” (Venice, NYFF)
Noah Baumbach has been making movies for almost 30 years, and yet this fall marks the release of his very first adaptation. And, to put it mildly, the “Marriage Story” filmmaker isn’t starting small. Based on Don DeLillo’s totemic 1985 novel of the same name — a dense, canonical, mordantly apocalyptic meditation on everything from academia to consumer culture and the nature of “modern death,” which has a life of its own — “White Noise” comes pre-baked with a degree of difficulty that would seem miles removed from the acidic Rohmerian squabble-fests that have become Baumbach’s stock-in-trade, and rumors of a ballooning $100 million budget don’t do much to suggest that the project is any less ambitious than it sounds.
Adam Driver stars as Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler studies at a liberal university everywhere and nowhere all at once. Greta Gerwig plays Jack’s fourth wife, Don Cheadle one of his fellow teachers, and André Benjamin and Alessandro Nivola two other residents of this doomed suburban idyll, all of whom find their futures clouded by an Airborne Toxic Event that fractures their lives in wildly unexpected ways (let’s just say there’s a reason why those budget rumors are credible enough to believe). “White Noise” has folly written all over it, which is precisely why it could turn out to be one of the best movies of the fall. —DE
“The Woman King” (TIFF)
Filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood does not get enough credit for her staggeringly diverse career. Here’s a filmmaker who can make everything from a beloved (and sexy romantic dramedy) like “Love & Basketball,” tackle a tough coming of age story like “The Secret Life of Bees,” dive deep into the perils of fame in “Beyond the Lights,” and give Netflix a bonafide superhero action movie in “The Old Guard.” What can’t she do?
In her next film, Prince-Bythewood seems to be intent on answering that very question with yet another compelling entry into a rich career. “The Woman King” stars Viola Davis in the titular (and fact-based) role as the leader of the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit that protected the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. The film might be Prince-Bythewood’s first crack at taking on complex, mostly unknown history, but everything else she’s done before seems likely to add up to one hell of an epic. The film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before rolling out in mid-September, perfect timing to get an awards campaign rolling, and fast. —KE
“Women Talking” (TIFF, NYFF)
How do you follow something as self-revealingly vast and powerful as Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell”? The answer, it would seem, is with patience. Polley hasn’t exactly been sitting on the sidelines since 2012 — her subsequent projects include the excellent miniseries “Alias Grace” — but she appears to have chosen her next feature with great care. And that’s for the best, as Miriam Toews’ “Women Talking” is not something that should be adapted lightly.
A novel based on the horrific events at an ultraconservative Mennonite community in Bolivia, where seven men were accused of drugging and raping 130 women over the course of four years, “Women Talking” begins with the women in a similar colony realizing that the attacks have been perpetrated by people they know, and not demons sent to punish them for their sins. Like Toews’ book, Polley’s film hinges on the urgent conversations these women (played by the likes of Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara, and Jessie Buckley), have in a hay loft as they plot their next move. Contained within a small space but obviously fraught as can be, “Women Talking” is poised to be the most high-profile work of Polley’s career so far. —DE
“The Wonder” (TIFF)
Chilean director Sebastián Lelio returns with his first feature since 2018’s darling “Gloria Bell” — itself a remake, starring Julianne Moore, of his 2013 film “Gloria.” The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind “A Fantastic Woman” and Orthodox Jewish lesbian drama “Disobedience” directs Florence Pugh in the Irish gothic “The Wonder.” Adapted from “Room” author Emma Donoghue’s novel, the 1862-set psychological thriller centers on an 11-year-old girl who remains alive and well despite not eating for months, with Pugh playing the nurse assigned to observe her in their tiny village.
The ensemble cast includes Tom Burke (“Mank”), Niamh Algar (“Censor”), Elaine Cassidy (“Disco Pigs”), Kíla Lord Cassidy (“The Doorman”), Toby Jones (“First Cow”), Dermot Crowley (“The Death of Stalin”), Brían F. O’Byrne (“Little Boy Blue”), and Ciaran Hinds (“The Terror”), with Donoghue, Lelio, and Alice Birch penning the script.
“The Wonder” promises a richly ambitious portrait of the 19th-century phenomenon of “fasting girls” who, in the Victorian era, claimed to have magical powers that enabled them to survive on a diet of, well, nothing. Pugh has a busy fall ahead, touting Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” as well as this film, which heads into festival season as one of Netflix’s titles to watch. —RL