You can’t make it to every screening, but these 15 films are worth lining up for. 

By Marlys Klossner

First Man (above)


It feels like we should have already had a Neil Armstrong film by now, but judging by the cast of this one, it was worth the wait. With Ryan Gosling as the first man on the moon, Claire Foy as his wife, Janet, and Damien Chazelle (who gave us such gems as La La Land and Whiplash) directing, the flick should be a welcome deep dive into the people at the heart of the original space race.

Shoplifters


This intimate film directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda has already won the prestigious Palm D’Or at Cannes. A family in Tokyo supports themselves by shoplifting, and winds up taking in a little girl they meet on the street. Through the family’s deep bonds, we’re reminded of how things that seem like moral absolutes on the surface can get a lot blurrier when our tribe is involved.

Shadow


This Chinese period piece goes in a totally different direction from Zhang Yimou’s last movie, The Great Wall. Instead of blockbuster entertainment, Shadow is much more focused on the craft, with stunning cinematography and martial arts choreography. Set somewhere around 220-280 A.D., it chronicles an epic tale of a king, a general, and a commoner.

A Star is Born


In her first leading role in a feature film, Lady Gaga plays an up-and-coming singer who flies under the wing of fellow musician Bradley Cooper. With Gaga stepping further into acting than ever before and Cooper sitting in the director’s chair for the first time, their on-screen characters aren’t the only ones on the rise.

High Life


Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, and Mia Goth star in this sci-fi thriller featuring a dynamic not often explored in outer space survival movies: a father and daughter duo. Pattinson’s character, Monte, is part of a group of criminals that has been sent on a space mission instead of serving their sentences on Earth.

Galveston


Elle Fanning and Ben Foster star in this atmospheric film directed by Mélanie Laurent (who you’ll recognize as Shosanna in Inglourious Basterds). Laurent’s first English film is adapted for the screen by Nic Pizzolato (True Detective) from his novel about a hitman and a call girl who get set up and go on the run together. Suspense and bleakness complement a striking colour palette and atmospheric cinematography.

Giant Little Ones


In Giant Little Ones, an incident at a birthday party changes everything for teenage boy Franky (Josh Wiggins). As the social consequences of this event escalate, Franky and those who support him must find the way forward. With Maria Bello and Kyle MacLachlan bringing the star power as Franky’s divorced parents, this movie breathes new life into “the incident at a party” teen movie trope.

Animal Behaviour


This comedic animated short created by Alison Snowden and David Fine depicts several different animals, each with different issues associated with its species (for example, a leech with separation anxiety) coming together for some group therapy. This is the first short the acclaimed Vancouver-based duo has produced since Bob’s Birthday, which they won an Oscar for in 1994. It’s a hilarious lesson in how to deal with mankind’s various natural destructive behaviours.

Beautiful Boy


Based on the memoirs by David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy stars Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell as a son and father struggling with the son’s meth addiction. Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen makes his English-language debut with this touching film that simultaneously jerks tears and warms hearts.

Ben is Back


Julia Roberts plays a mother whose troubled son (Lucas Hedges) turns up unexpectedly on Christmas Eve. As the titular Ben reveals his real reason for returning home, Roberts’ character must do everything in her power to keep her son safe and well. The project is directed by Hedge’s real-life father, Peter, who brings the family theme even closer to home.

Everybody Knows


Family secrets bubbling to the surface have tragic consequences when Penélope Cruz’s character’s daughter is kidnapped from a wedding celebration and held for ransom. Everyone in the family becomes a suspect as more is revealed about her past with Javier Bardem’s character, whose heart she broke years ago. But is that the whole story? Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) directs.

The Wedding Guest


Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart, A Summer in Genoa) directs Oscar nominee Dev Patel as a British Muslim man travelling through Pakistan and India. Winterbottom has divulged very little about the plot, so the work itself is just as mysterious as Patel’s character. With its world premiere at TIFF, all eyes will be on this much anticipated film.

Burning


Inspired by a Haruki Murakami short story, this Korean film is at its bare bones a love triangle, but there is so much more at play. Ah-In Yoo plays Jong-su, who, after cat-sitting for a girl he likes, discovers she was on vacation with another man (played by Steven Yeun) who comes back with her. It’s a thriller, a drama, a mystery, and not as concerned with giving definite answers as with presenting an emotional, unpredictable story.

The Hate U Give


The hit novel of the same name is getting the big screen treatment with George Tillman Jr. directing and Amandla Stenberg as Starr, a teenage girl who balances life in the predominantly black neighbourhood she lives in with the rich white prep school she attends. When she witnesses her best friend being shot by a police officer, she realizes it’s time to stand up for what she believes in.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Based on the true story of Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me? features Melissa McCarthy as the acclaimed author who turns to forging historical letters in a career slump, a scheme that eventually falls apart. Marielle Heller, who directed The Diary of a Teenage Girl, shows both the light-hearted and the morally questionable sides to the fascinating, unapologetic character that is Israel.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF TIFF