We Already Can’t Wait to See These 5 Films at The Toronto Film Festival

By  · Published on August 1st, 2016

The first wave of TIFF films have been announced. Here are our highlights!

This week Artistic Director Cameron Bailey and CEO Piers Handling announced the first wave of films set to play the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Here are our top five most anticipated films from the announcement, as well as other highlights.

American Pastoral (Ewan McGregor)

Based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning Philip Roth novel, American Pastoral follows a family whose seemingly idyllic existence is shattered by the social and political turmoil of the 1960s. Ewan McGregor stars in his directorial debut as Seymour “Swede” Levov, a once legendary high school athlete who is now a successful businessman married to a former beauty queen. But turmoil brews beneath the polished veneer of Swede’s life, when his beloved teenage daughter disappears after being accused of committing a violent act. Dedicated to finding her, what he discovers shakes him to the core, forcing him to look beneath the surface and confront the chaos that is shaping the world around him. Also starring Academy Award–winner Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Emmy–winner Uzo Aduba, and David Strathairn.

American Pastoral has the potential to be a truly excellent achievement, but in all likelihood it could be the disaster of the festival. Roth’s novels are notoriously difficult to adapt, partially due to Roth’s succinct understanding of the English language, but mostly due to the way he portrays both American and Jewish culture. Based on the information and trailer released, we don’t know if McGregor has kept Swede’s Jewish heritage in the film. Without it, one of the novel’s most interesting elements will be lost. Also, while I hate to be a stickler for details, and always try not to compare the mediums of novels and films, I’m going to have a tough time buying the petit McGregor as the statuesque football star that is Swede Levov.

Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

Michèle seems indestructible. As the head of a leading video game company, she brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business. Being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes Michèle’s life forever. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game – a game that may, at any moment, spiral out of control. Stars Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, and Anne Consigny.

This was one that I regrettably had to miss in Cannes. Huppert and Verhoeven finally working together seems like a match made in cinema heaven. I’ve heard this is surprisingly quite funny, which based on the synopsis is quite shocking. Huppert has experimented with many genres over the past couple decades, but this super dark comedy may be the one that finally gets her the stateside attention she’s deserved for years. Elle also marks the welcome return of Paul Verhoeven, who had previously not made a feature film since 2006’s Black Book.

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola)

An American woman in a tired marriage finds herself on an unforeseen road trip from Cannes to Paris with a dashing Frenchman. What should be a seven-hour drive unexpectedly takes two days with many diversions: picturesque sites, fine food and wine, humour, fun, wisdom – and romance. Starring Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard and Alec Baldwin.

Eleanor Coppola’s narrative debut seems like it could be quite interesting. Married to Francis Ford Coppola, Eleanor is known for her masterful documentary Hearts of Darkness, which tracked the making of Apocalypse Now. Casting Diane Lane as the lead could make this one of the standout films of the festival, as the actress is overdue for a great role. That being said, Paris Can Wait could very easily be your run-of-the-mill road movie and would therefore be quickly forgotten.

Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)

A delicate and affecting tale about a middle-aged professor whose carefully structured life is thrown into disarray when her husband leaves her for another woman, and who finds an unlikely new companion in a former student and radical young communist. With Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob, Sarah Le Picard, and Solal Forte.

The latest film by Mia Hansen-Løve won her the Best Director award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. While I found her previous film Eden to be a bit of a drag, there is no denying that Hansen-Løve has a unique voice and brings something special to the topics her films explore. Things to Come also features the first union of French superstars Isabelle Huppert and Edith Scob, which could result in some scenery-chewing devastation.

Unless (Alan Gilsenan)

Reta Winters has many reasons to be happy, but all the quiet satisfactions of her well-lived life suddenly disappear when her eldest daughter Norah inexplicably drops out of college and is found on a Toronto street corner, panhandling and refusing to speak. An adaptation of the final novel by the late, great Canadian novelist Carol Shields. Starring Catherine Keener, Matt Craven, Hannah Gross, Martha Henry, and Hanna Schygulla.

I have a feeling Unless could be a really great film that will likely slip under the radar. Catherine Keener can give a devastating performance, and based on the synopsis, this film could provide her with the kind of star vehicle she works best in. Keener is known for playing supporting roles, so seeing her in this leading role could be very rewarding.

Other highlights include Kim Jee Woon’s The Age of Shadows, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, Vikram Gandhi’s Barry, Alex Lehmann’s Blue Jay, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune, François Ozon’s Frantz, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, Christopher Guest’s Mascots, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, Rebecca Zlotowski’s Planetarium, and Benedict Andrews’ Una.

All photos and synopses provided by TIFF.

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Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films.