Here’s our early scratchpad for the films that could figure in the awards race — talent-rich, robustly entertaining, and bound for glory.
Advertisement

The crowds are back at the Toronto International Film Festival. They're snaking their way up that steep escalator at the Scotiabank Theatre, filling the midnights at the Royal Alexandria (a change of venue, but not of spirit). It's impossible not to feel a belated sense of rebound, an occasion for which TIFF's programmers have scheduled its strongest slate in years, filled with buzzy world premieres, titles that will hopefully spin their launches into months-long Oscar campaigns.

TIFF Must List Awardist
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF (5)

EW has put the time in, screening dozens of movies in advance, in order to offer you these 12 standouts. Maybe it's a revelatory performance — and there are several below, from actors you think you know, but don't. Or perhaps it's a director taking a delightful career left-turn, or a documentarian supplying new energy to a project that might have played like homework.

Whatever the reason, here's EW's TIFF 2022 Must List, made up of the movies that stayed with us the longest (so far). Join us for full coverage, including premiere reviews, exclusive interviews, and awards analysis, over the course of the festival, which runs from Sept. 8-18.

The Banshees of Inisherin

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

The latest from Martin McDonagh, a feast of language and raw comic jolts, may not seem as timely as his Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri did, but give it time to grow in your head. Sometimes feuds come out of nowhere; at least that's how it seems to small-town Pádraic (Colin Farrell, never more huggable), who one day discovers that his long-time drinking buddy (Brendan Gleeson) wants nothing to do with him. Apart from an In Bruges reunion and a tart metaphor for today's societal dysfunction, you get beautifully calibrated turns by our favorite weirdo, Barry Keoghan, as well as Kerry Condon, playing Pádraic's sister with fraying patience.

Bros

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

A comedy so LGBTQ+-centric, its only bit of hetero energy comes from Debra Messing playing a furious version of herself, Bros leaves the straight world far behind. The all-queer rom-com, sharply co-scripted by leading man Billy Eichner and director Nick Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), has solidly satisfying pleasures in store: an eye for authentic Manhattan locations, some sneaky-serious heartbreak (courtesy of breakout Luke Macfarlane), and the mania and banality of NYC dating — and ghosting.

Causeway

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Relaxed, dialogue-driven and deeply humane, this small-scale drama feels like the return of peak Jonathan Demme circa Melvin and Howard — it's directed by Lila Neugebauer of Broadway's 2018 revival of The Waverly Gallery, making her feature debut. Wrecked by an Afghanistan explosive and facing a daunting physical recovery ahead of her, a guarded Army veteran (extra-wiry Jennifer Lawrence, paring her craft down to a knife's edge) returns home to New Orleans, where she befriends her lonely mechanic (Bullet Train's Brian Tyree Henry, having the kind of year that actors would kill for). They don't dwell on their brokenness, making their time together an oasis. Once you see these two magnificent performances, you'll have the beginnings of an Oscar ballot, and maybe the end of one.

Corsage

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

It's never a bad time to celebrate Vicky Krieps, subtle, insistent, and triumphant in Phantom Thread, a performance for the ages. Her latest film shows her taking on another malcontent hoping to break free from the tightly corseted bonds of a mannequin lifestyle. She is Empress Elisabeth, the 19th-century royal of Austria, renowned for her ridiculously slender waistline. Writer-director Marie Kreutzer creates a sumptuous package, partly fabricated, and knows to keep her complex star front and center.

Good Night Oppy

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Could it be that Toronto's most inspiring story of perseverance stars a six-wheeled robot with a face like WALL-E and pluck to match? Ryan White's almost magically perfect science documentary, both accessible and brainy, unpacks the nearly 15-year mission of the Mars rover Opportunity, trundling its way out of ditches and making discoveries. Movingly, the mission's ground crew spans cultures and generations, but all share a nerdy love of problem-solving. To watch them kvell over a robot millions of miles away is to appreciate a film with the power to inspire a generation.

The Good Nurse

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Where do Oscar winners go after they've proved themselves beyond all doubt? Hopefully into projects like this, where their work is unvarnished, pure, and quietly assured. Jessica Chastain does a full 180 from her masklike Tammy Faye into the role of a real-life ICU nurse who, peering through her exhaustion, begins to suspect a friend and co-worker (Eddie Redmayne, spookily blank) of a string of medically-induced murders. Director Tobias Lindholm seems to have caught them both at a daring moment.

The Inspection

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

An indie Full Metal Jacket with no shortage of nose-to-nose shouting (and more nightmarish punishments to come), writer-director Elegance Bratton's drama is based on his own journey through the Marine Corps bootcamp, a doubly tough gauntlet for his being gay and homeless. Multiple Tony-nominee Jeremy Pope holds the screen with fierce defiance, scraping out a place in a brotherhood that doesn't want him, while Gabrielle Union steers the movie into unsettling territory as a disapproving mother. Expect A24 to push this one deep into the awards zone.

A Jazzman's Blues

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

It will be called Tyler Perry's first "serious movie" — as if he hasn't taken his style of comedy extremely seriously on the way toward building an empire unlike any in independent film. Still, it's fascinating to learn that this romantic murder mystery (nary a Madea in sight), which stretches from post-WWII Georgia to a justice-seeking moment in the mid-1980s, was Perry's first screenplay, unproduced until now. He's got a completely different vibe in mind here; such creativity should be welcomed.

Living

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

We were charmed by this one at Sundance, and the gentle appeal of dapper Bill Nighy awakening to a belated sense of purpose as his light dims, is worth amplifying. Novelist and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day) dives into the complexities and heartache of Akira Kurosawa's revered 1952 Ikiru, recasting the action to Churchill's London. Nighy is the dour paper-pusher who suddenly realizes he has a lot more to give to the world, and little time to do it. This will be the awards run of Nighy's career.

My Policeman

My Policeman
Harry Styles stars in 'My Policeman' as a closeted cop named Tom who marries a schoolteacher (Emma Corrin).
| Credit: Amazon Prime

You're going for Harry Styles, and we don't judge. But even for a 1950s period piece freighted with so much pre-release buzz (yes, those gay sex scenes are indeed "tender and loving," Harry, good on you), this downbeat romance has surprises that make it worth investigating. Particularly of note is David Dawson, already a lauded British stage vet and on the verge of breaking out in movies. He plays the only clear-eyed character in the film, whose every glance carries the doom he knows is coming.

One Fine Morning

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

There aren't a lot of directors like France's Mia Hansen-Løve, content to explore intimate dynamics with utter realism and a minimum of drama. (She once made a movie about '90s club culture, Eden, that ended up being more about debts and regret.) Her latest, a showcase for the subtle Léa Seydoux, whose range goes from Bond girl to Blue Is the Warmest Color, concerns a widow who fires up an affair with an old friend who's married. Whatever you're imagining, it's not as sophisticated and adult as this.

On the Come Up

TIFF Must List
Credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Set in fictional Garden Heights, the same scrappy neighborhood where YA author Angie Thomas pitched her earlier The Hate U Give, On the Come Up follows a rhyme-writing teen who dreams of winning rap battles (don't we all?) and extending the hip-hop legacy of her departed dad. Issues of integrity, compromise and empowerment complicate the flow on cue, but Love & Basketball's Sanaa Lathan, stepping behind the camera for her confident directorial debut, shapes the material into something spiky and real.

The Whale

The Whale
Credit: A24

If the full-body transformations are here to stay, let them be as complex, riven by pain and guilt, and recognizably human as this one. Brendan Fraser has always had great eyes, darting and intelligent. The gentle humor of his past work shines through Darren Aronofsky's one-set drama (based on the stage play by Samuel D. Hunter) about a divorced teacher, estranged from his teenage daughter and trapped by food addictions. Fraser also brings with him the extra-textual narrative of a tough personal comeback; he's been gone for too long, and it's time for him to be daring again.

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more. 

Related content:

Comments