Toronto Film Festival: 13 films we’re looking out for

Annette Bening and Jamie Bell in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

What plans do you have for March 2018?

If you’re anything like us, you’ll barely know what you’re doing this weekend, let alone that far ahead in the calendar.

But in Hollywood, it’s a different story.

Preparation for awards season has already started, with the Venice Film Festivalin Italy and the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado taking the lead in identifying likely Oscar contenders.

Now it’s Toronto’s turn.

Denzel Washington in Roman J Israel, Esq
Image captionDenzel Washington plays the title role in Roman J Israel, Esq

Hollywood is about to descend on the Canadian city to premiere the major releases that will dominate cinemas this winter – and, they hope, the Oscars next March.

Among the possible awards contenders showing at TIFF are First They Killed My Father, directed by Angelina Jolie; Breathe, directed by Andy Serkis; Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool starring Annette Bening; and Roman J Israel, Esq starring Denzel Washington.

  • Hollywood heads for Toronto

We couldn’t possibly do justice to the 250+ feature films showing at the festival, which opens on Thursday and runs until 17 September.

Here, though, is everything you need to know about 13 of the highest-profile titles in this year’s programme.


Downsizing

Downsizing
  • Where better to start than with a film about a man who literally shrinks himself in search of a better life
  • Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play a couple who realise that a newly-discovered miniaturisation process could be a way to get rich
  • They figure that their financial problems might be solved if they could simply live in a mansion the size of a doll’s house, because their money would go much further. What could go wrong?
  • Quite a lot, as it happens
  • The trailer doesn’t give too much away but Downsizing has already attracted rave reviews after opening the Venice Film Festival last week

I, Tonya

I, Tonya
  • Think Dancing On Ice but with a lot more drama and a lot less Phillip Schofield
  • Margot Robbie stars as controversial Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, who was caught up in one of the biggest scandals in US sports history
  • In 1994, Tonya’s main rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked at an ice rink
  • It later transpired that people closely connected to Harding were behind the attack, and were trying to sabotage Kerrigan’s career
  • No trailer for this one yet but it’s safe to assume Margot’s performance will be quite a departure from Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

The Current War

The Current WarImage copyrightTIFF
  • Don’t worry it’s not actually a film about war
  • It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as electricity inventor Thomas Edison
  • If you like films about electrical currents then you’re in luck
  • The Current War tells the story of Edison’s battle with fellow electrical titan George Westinghouse over whose system was superior
  • No trailer yet for this one but we do have this nice promo pic of Benedict as Edison looking moody in a poorly-lit room
  • Maybe that’s why he decided to invent the light bulb

Molly’s Game

Molly's GameImage copyrightTIFF
  • This one has been written and directed by Aaron Sorkin – best known for The West Wing, The Social Network and The Newsroom
  • Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba star – an on-screen combo we can’t wait to see
  • It tells the real-life story of Molly Bloom, who set up an exclusive underground poker empire in the late 2000s
  • She built an A-list underground network made up of Hollywood film stars, hedge fund managers, and the Russian mob
  • (As you do)
  • It looks pretty gripping from the trailer

Borg/McEnroe

Borg / McEnroeImage copyrightTIFF
  • Stars Shia LeBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg respectively
  • A movie about a couple of people playing tennis in the 1980s might not sound like box office gold, but this film is seriously hot property at TIFF this year and has been selected to open the festival
  • The film tells the story of how McEnroe attempted to wrestle the Wimbledon crown from Borg (who had already won four times) at the men’s final in 1980
  • It’s more than just a film about balls and rackets though; it’s about rivalry, the pressures of success, and two sports stars who feel imprisoned by their own careers
  • What do you mean I copied and pasted that sentence from the press release
  • The trailer has already had more than 1 million views

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil BeachImage copyrightTIFF
  • You wouldn’t necessarily think of a coastline near Weymouth as being the setting for a tragic love story (or potential Oscar contender) but here we are
  • This is the big-screen version of the 2007 Ian McEwan novel of the same name
  • The two main characters are Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle)
  • It’s 1962 and they’ve just got married, but an argument breaks out as the prospect of their first sexual encounter looms
  • (This is pre-Beatlemania and the sexual revolution, remember)
  • No trailer, but we know the story is told through a series of flashbacks which make clear the couple’s considerable differences

Battle of the Sexes

Emma Stone and Steve CarellImage copyrightTIFF
  • Flaming heck, there’s a lot of films about sports stars around this year aren’t there
  • Emma Stone stars as Billie Jean King in this one, while Steve Carell plays former tennis champion Bobby Riggs
  • The film is set in 1973, when King and Riggs are about to face each other in one of the most watched televised sports matches of all time
  • It looks like a lot of fun from the trailer
  • As the reigning best actress, could Emma bag a second nomination in as many years?

Suburbicon

SuburbiconImage copyrightTIFF
  • Set in 1959, this one’s about a family who live in what appears to be an idyllic suburban community… but which actually has an underbelly of betrayal, deceit and violence
  • Kind of like Desperate Housewives the movie? (Probably not)
  • Suburbicon isn’t short on big names
  • For starters, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac star in it
  • But it’s also directed by George Clooney, who co-wrote it with Grant Heslov and the Coen Brothers
  • Anyway, it looks pretty dark, but also kinda funny, judging by the trailer

Gaga: Five Foot Two

Lady GagaImage copyrightTIFF
  • Every pop star and their dog has had a documentary film made about them in the last five years
  • Now, Lady Gaga is joining Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and One Direction by releasing one of her own
  • Five Foot Two is directed by Chris Moukarbel and documents the recording and run-up to her fifth album Joanne
  • Pop fans don’t need to book a trip to Toronto though, as the film will be released on Netflix later this month
  • Let’s hope the film goes down better at Toronto than one Netflix film did at the Cannes Film Festival
  • From the teasers, this looks like a pretty candid and honest reflection of Gaga’s life behind the scenes

Kings

KingsImage copyrightTIFF
  • In 1992, the acquittal of a white policeman charged with assaulting a black man, Rodney King, sparked mass riots in Los Angeles
  • Those riots are the setting of Kings, which sees Halle Berry playing a single mother living in a South Central neighbourhood
  • Daniel Craig plays a local recluse (who is also the only white man living in the area) who helps Millie bring her kids home to safety after the riots erupt
  • The film is likely to be seen as particularly resonant after the high-profile killing of several black citizens by US police officers in recent years

Super Size Me 2

Super Size Me 2Image copyrightTIFF
  • This is the follow up to 2004’s Super Size Me
  • That was probably kind of obvious from the title wasn’t it
  • This time, instead of going on a fast food-only diet for a month, documentary maker Morgan Spurlock sets out to open his own chicken franchise
  • We’re talking, like, the whole process – from raising poultry and conjuring recipes to designing the brand and scouting a location
  • It’s not like junk food or society’s obesity issues have disappeared since the first film, so this could be just as relevant (and hopefully as entertaining) as its predecessor

Stronger

StrongerImage copyrightTIFF
  • Stronger tells the true story of a man caught in the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013
  • It’s based on the memoir of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the attack
  • He was the subject of a famous photograph that was taken in the aftermath of the bombing that day, when he was seen in a wheelchair being pushed by paramedics
  • Jake Gyllenhaal plays Bauman, who struggles to adjust to life after the attack

Mother!

Jennifer LawrenceImage copyrightTIFF
  • Yeah, so this one looks pretty terrifying from the trailer
  • Seriously, we’ll probably be hiding behind the person in front of us in the cinema
  • Jennifer Lawrence stars in this psychological thriller alongside Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer
  • It’s about a newlywed couple who are are threatened by the arrival of uninvited guests to the home they’ve just moved to
  • The few people who’ve seen it so far have described it as “dark, dark, dark, brilliant”.
  • Oh god. Scared. Hold me.