I am so excited that I am once again attending the Toronto International Film Festival! It is one of my favorite festivals, not only because it is the precursor for awards season, but because many of my most anticipated movies each year premiere here. It is exhilarating to be in those audiences that are seeing a film for the first time, and to be part of the buzz on what movies and performances are the ones to watch out for.
This year is no exception, with TIFF 2023 having one of the strongest lineups I’ve seen! It features the two films at the top of my most anticipated list, as well as many others that I have been so excited to see!
An element I am most excited about is a lot of these movies have a strong female presence behind and in front of the camera, which is what I am focusing my coverage on. I am a member of the Women’s Committee for the Critics Choice Association, and we give out our Seal of Female Empowerment in Entertainment each month for films and series that illuminate the female experience and perspective through authentically told female-driven stories. I love that TIFF also prioritizes films from female filmmakers and I can already tell there will be a lot of candidates at TIFF!
Check out some of my most anticipated movies at TIFF 2023 and let me know what movies you are most excited to see! And of course, check back here starting September 7 for my reviews of these films!
Did you really think I wasn’t going to have a Kate Winslet movie at the top of my most anticipated list? I have been following production of LEE since Kate first began talking about it several years ago. This has been a passion project of hers to bring to the big screen; not only is she the star of the film, but she is an executive producer as well. I am so, so excited I will get to see it early at TIFF! And did I mention that it has an amazing supporting cast as well? Alexander Skarsgard, Marion Cotillard, Andrea Riseborough, Andy Samberg… I could go on.
Directed by Ellen Kuras, LEE is about American photojournalist Lee Miller (played by Kate Winslet), who seemingly had a million different lives. Starting as a model, Lee transitioned into being a wartime photographer, capturing many of the most striking images from WWII, including concentration camps, the first use of napalm, and Hitler’s abandoned house. And that’s only the beginning! There is much, much, more to Lee’s life, under the surface, that I can’t wait to see explored.
THE END WE START FROM
It should be no surprise that a movie starring and produced by Jodie Comer would also be at the top of my list. Directed by Mahalia Bello and written by Alice Birch, THE END WE START FROM is another film with a strong female presence behind and in front of the camera. Comer is one of the best actresses working today, a chameleon that is able to take on any genre. I am excited to see her once again show off her acting chops in a meaty, emotional role like this… and with a baby strapped to her nonetheless.
Based off of the novel by Megan Hunter, the film is an apocalyptic drama focused on new mother (Jodie Comer), her partner (Joel Fry), and their baby trying to escape London to get to his parents’ home in the English countryside. Unfortunately, the family quickly discovers societal collapse isn’t just in London, and it’s up to them to protect their family in this dangerous new environment.
WICKED LITTLE LETTERS
Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley in a dark comedy set in a 1920s English town… do I really need to hear more than that? Absolutely not. It’s like director Thea Sharrock did a mad-lib and chose everything I want to see in a movie, culminating in WICKED LITTLE LETTERS.
In the small English town of Littlehampton circa 1920, residents begin receiving anonymous letters full of curse words and scandal. Edith (Olivia Colman), a pious and respected woman in town, is determined to get to the bottom of who could be doing this, and her target is none other than her neighbor Rose (Jessie Buckley). But when Rose is arrested, other women in the town begin working together to prove her innocence and investigate if there is another person behind these letters.
Another exciting premiere at TIFF this year is DADDIO, written and directed by Christy Hall and starring Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn. I have loved every movie released by Johnson’s production company Tea Time Pictures, such as CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH and AM I OK?, and based on what I have heard about DADDIO, it is going to be just as amazing.
The film follows Johnson and Penn in a humanizing character study, set in a New York taxi. Focused on a discussion between the two characters on a long ride from the airport to midtown Manhattan, the two jockey back and forth between the perspective of a woman in her 30s and a sixty-year-old man who considers himself “old school.” I am preparing myself for an intelligent, illuminating movie that may have some good moments of Dakota laying the smackdown… at least I hope.
I am a sucker for a movie based on real-life, insane stories… and it looks like Netflix’s PAIN HUSTLERS is just that and more. Adapted from the non-fiction book by Evan Hughes, the film stars Emily Blunt and Chris Evans as drug reps for a startup that find their own financial success, while unexpectedly contributing to the start of the opioid epidemic.
The opioid epidemic is so fascinating, and while I have watched documentary after documentary on the topic, I am excited to see how PAIN HUSTLERS sets itself apart. Especially because this feels more like a WOLF OF WALL STREET film rather than DOPESICK. This is the kind of movie that is both timely and important to understand how this terrible opioid epidemic started, and more importantly how the American dream can turn into a nightmare.
I am true crime obsessed and consume any crime thriller I can get my hands on. From the picture of Benicio Del Toro alone, I can tell Netflix’s REPTILE is going to have the exact noir atmosphere and twists I love to see onscreen. I loved what Del Toro did in SICARIO and I am getting the same kind of vibes with his character in this film.
Co-written by Del Toro himself, the film centers around a whodunnit; after a realtor is murdered, it is up to homicide detective Tom Nichols (Del Toro) to investigate all of the people in the victim’s orbit to determine who did it.
Another film based on a true story, NYAD explores sixty-year-old Diane Nyad’s (played by Annette Bening) dream journey of swimming from Florida to Cuba without a shark cage. Also co-starring Jodie Foster, the film is another great example of TIFF and Netflix welcoming female-led stories, even ones that have some controversy. I really respect that the film reportedly does not shy away from the questions and criticism surrounding Nyad’s solo swim, nor does it take the bait in trying to make her more likable than she is, as many films about women are wont to do.
WOMAN OF THE HOUR
One of my favorite true crime cases is explored in Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut, WOMAN OF THE HOUR. This film showcases the true story of serial killer Rodney Alcala and his appearance on The Dating Game, which took place in the middle of his 1970s killing spree. It’s honestly surprising no one has brought this insane story to the big screen yet, but I am excited to see what Kendrick has up her sleeve for this one as she explores the themes of expectations around female encounters with men, misogyny, and more.
HIS THREE DAUGHTERS
It’s almost like writer/director Azazel Jacobs reached into my mind and asked me for three of my favorite actresses so he could cast them in a movie together. What an embarrassment of riches to have Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Olsen, and Natasha Lyonne in the same film, but here we are! HIS THREE DAUGHTERS follows three estranged sisters as they come together after their father’s health declines. I imagine this film is going to be a brilliant showcase of each actor’s incredible range and with so many differences in each performance, I cannot wait to see how they bounce off of each other.
You didn’t think I would miss the writing and directorial debut from the Best Chris™ did you? A comedic noir crime thriller, POOLMAN follows an anxious pool cleaner who is given information about a conspiracy in Los Angeles. He rallies his eccentric friends (like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Annette Bening, and Danny DeVito) to save the city. Pine is another multifaceted actor that is able to crush every genre he puts his mind to. I love that he is leaning more into the comedic realm as of late and cannot wait to see what he does with this role.
I was excited to see QUIZ LADY for Sandra Oh alone, but the description of this film is what really got me hooked. Directed by Jessica Yu, the film centers around trivia-obsessed Anne (Awkwafina) who sets off with her wild sister Jenny (Oh) to become a game show champion. She hopes her winnings will clear her mother’s gambling debt and pay the ransom of her beloved dog, who was kidnapped by some dangerous money lenders. I love a goofy comedy and this looks right up my alley… not to mention Oh is such an underrated comedic actress, I cannot wait to see her play an over-the-top character like this!
HIT MAN is the latest from director Richard Linkater, who also cowrote the film with star Glen Powell. This film, which is very loosely based on a true story, sounds like an edge-of-your-seat comedic crime thriller with Powell playing a fake hitman that the police use for undercover sting operations. However, when he falls for a potential client, things begin to unravel with all evidence pointing back to him. I love Linklater’s takes on black comedies, like 2011’s BERNIE, and HIT MAN sounds like the perfect shot of adrenaline for a long day at the film festival.
When all of the drama with GameStop was occurring in real time, there was no doubt that a movie was going to be written about it a la THE BIG SHORT. Director Craig Gillespie beat everyone to the punch in his film DUMB MONEY. With an all-star ensemble cast—featuring Seth Rogen, Sebastian Stan, Paul Dano, Shailene Woodley, Pete Davidson, and many more— the comedy centers around the push and pull between grassroots rookie investors and billionaire hedge fund managers as they play the stock market game to huge consequences.
Next Goal Wins
What an embarrassment of riches that we finally get to see Michael Fassbender in a new role AND it’s a comedy?? What did we do to deserve this? Taika Waititi’s latest NEXT GOAL WINS is based on the true story of Thomas Rongen (Fassbender) and his attempt to turn American Samoa’s soccer team into an elite squad… or at least a team that can win one game. I have always loved Waititi’s ability to balance humor with a lot of heart, and it looks like that is definitely going to be the case with this one!
In Kristin Scott Thomas’s directorial debut, NORTH STAR focuses on a matriarchal family led by Thomas, who is on the verge of her third wedding; her previous husbands died serving in the British Navy. Her three daughters—played by Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, and Emily Beecham—are grappling with their own issues about the men in their lives, which comes to a head during what should be a happy time but results in drama. I love that Thomas also co-wrote the screenplay, basing it on some elements of her real life. Is there anything this woman can’t do? I love that once again, a female-led film is given prime position in TIFF’s extraordinary lineup.