Yes, the Emmys were wonderful, but that doesn’t mean television has dethroned film as our dominant storytelling medium—and it probably never will. Yet the elegies lamenting the demise of cinema continue to roll in, despite growing evidence that movies are alive and well. Case in point: the Toronto International Film Festival, where for the last two weeks the restorative power of film was on full display up in the Great White North. From show-stopping musicals to intellectually dense sci-fi, the fall slate promises several movies—both big and small—worth trotting out to the theater to see. Here are seven of them.

Arrival

Upon the “arrival” of foreign entities, America turns to Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist tasked with translating alien communication. If the world ever came to this, we could do a lot worse than having Amy Adams be our spokesperson. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) understands the power of his lead actress, too. And while crafting this haunting sci-fi drama, Villeneuve brings together her appeal with a compelling narrative about the curiosity of mankind. Arrival is an exploration of us—proud, fearful, trigger-happy—told through our own unknowing otherness.
Release Date: Nov. 11

Upon the “arrival” of foreign entities, America turns to Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist tasked with translating alien communication. If the world ever came to this, we could do a lot worse than having Amy Adams be our spokesperson. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) understands the power of his lead actress, too. And while crafting this haunting sci-fi drama, Villeneuve brings together her appeal with a compelling narrative about the curiosity of mankind. Arrival is an exploration of us—proud, fearful, trigger-happy—told through our own unknowing otherness.
Release Date: Nov. 11

Lion

Unwittingly displaced at the age of five, Saroo Brierley (Newsroom’s Dev Patel) has now grown up into a functional, shaggy-haired adult. But the absence of home—or knowledge of his family’s whereabouts—haunts him. Based on Brierley’s true story, Lion is Oscar bait done skillfully. In part because the man behind the camera, Garth Davis (Top of the Lake), understands how to paint characters with nuance and complexity. The film avoids broad strokes as it charts Saroo’s ambitious search for his family via Google Maps.
Release Date: Nov. 25

Unwittingly displaced at the age of five, Saroo Brierley (Newsroom’s Dev Patel) has now grown up into a functional, shaggy-haired adult. But the absence of home—or knowledge of his family’s whereabouts—haunts him. Based on Brierley’s true story, Lion is Oscar bait done skillfully. In part because the man behind the camera, Garth Davis (Top of the Lake), understands how to paint characters with nuance and complexity. The film avoids broad strokes as it charts Saroo’s ambitious search for his family via Google Maps.
Release Date: Nov. 25

Nocturnal Animals

After a seven-year hiatus, fashion designer and filmmaker Tom Ford returns to the silver screen with Nocturnal Animals, his artfully gritty follow-up to A Single Man. Though not as immaculate as his debut, Animals is an intoxicating, familial revenge tale driven by Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon. Its story-within-a-story structure may lose some prospective viewers, but if you stick with Ford till the end, you’ll find something that is at once emotionally devastating and deeply unnerving.
Release Date: Dec. 9

After a seven-year hiatus, fashion designer and filmmaker Tom Ford returns to the silver screen with Nocturnal Animals, his artfully gritty follow-up to A Single Man. Though not as immaculate as his debut, Animals is an intoxicating, familial revenge tale driven by Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon. Its story-within-a-story structure may lose some prospective viewers, but if you stick with Ford till the end, you’ll find something that is at once emotionally devastating and deeply unnerving.
Release Date: Dec. 9

Loving

If Loving proves anything, it’s that Jeff Nichols can capably direct anything. A consummate talent, Nichols’ second feature of the year (Midnight Special came out in March) revolves around the historic Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia—which challenged antiquated laws banning miscegenation. For a movie about a landmark event in US history, Loving is remarkably understated, reserved. In part because it’s bolstered by a pair of towering (but not showy) performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga who, respectively, play Richard and Mildred Loving. As we warned earlier this year, make sure to bring a box Kleenex before sitting down for this one.
Release Date: Nov. 4

If Loving proves anything, it’s that Jeff Nichols can capably direct anything. A consummate talent, Nichols’ second feature of the year (Midnight Special came out in March) revolves around the historic Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia—which challenged antiquated laws banning miscegenation. For a movie about a landmark event in US history, Loving is remarkably understated, reserved. In part because it’s bolstered by a pair of towering (but not showy) performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga who, respectively, play Richard and Mildred Loving. As we warned earlier this year, make sure to bring a box Kleenex before sitting down for this one.
Release Date: Nov. 4

La La Land

Damian Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Whiplash) once again tops himself with his latest, a two-hour musical confection set in contemporary Los Angeles. Blissful from beginning to end, the film is a love story between a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone). The conventionality of their romance is quickly rendered irrelevant, though. La La Land is not revolutionizing the act of falling in and out love. It’s a sumptuous modern musical about Hollywood—both past and present—that remains in the honeymoon phase until the end credits. Point being: Even calcified hearts may find refuge in Chazelle’s wondrous fairytale, one song and dance number at a time.
Release Date: Dec. 16

Damian Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Whiplash) once again tops himself with his latest, a two-hour musical confection set in contemporary Los Angeles. Blissful from beginning to end, the film is a love story between a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone). The conventionality of their romance is quickly rendered irrelevant, though. La La Land is not revolutionizing the act of falling in and out love. It’s a sumptuous modern musical about Hollywood—both past and present—that remains in the honeymoon phase until the end credits. Point being: Even calcified hearts may find refuge in Chazelle’s wondrous fairytale, one song and dance number at a time.
Release Date: Dec. 16

Free Fire

Shifting from allegories (High Rise) to bullets, Ben Wheatley’s latest finds the quick-witted British director just having a good time. Set in one room for 90 minutes, Free Fire quickly turns into a slick shoot-‘em-up as a gun deal between a cast of con-men, dopers, washed out thieves, and a girl goes awry. It’s essentially an early Quentin Tarantino movie (i.e. Reservoir Dogs) before Tarantino evolved into Tarantino—briskly paced, profanity-heavy action with smart-asses front and center.
Release Date: 2017

Shifting from allegories (High Rise) to bullets, Ben Wheatley’s latest finds the quick-witted British director just having a good time. Set in one room for 90 minutes, Free Fire quickly turns into a slick shoot-‘em-up as a gun deal between a cast of con-men, dopers, washed out thieves, and a girl goes awry. It’s essentially an early Quentin Tarantino movie (i.e. Reservoir Dogs) before Tarantino evolved into Tarantino—briskly paced, profanity-heavy action with smart-asses front and center.
Release Date: 2017

Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’ sophomore masterwork is a rarified piece of art. A compendium of moving images that only comes around once or twice a year, if that. Told in triptych fashion, Jenkins catalogues the evolution of Chiron, from laconic child to lanky teen to troubled adult. In an age where masculinity, especially black masculinity, is being discussed and disassembled ad nauseam, Moonlight is a healthy respite. It’s a fresh, complex, and verisimilitudinous examination of a young African-American man—aimless and sexually uncertain—that remains burrowed inside the recesses of your mind for days after the final frame.
Release Date: Oct. 21

Barry Jenkins’ sophomore masterwork is a rarified piece of art. A compendium of moving images that only comes around once or twice a year, if that. Told in triptych fashion, Jenkins catalogues the evolution of Chiron, from laconic child to lanky teen to troubled adult. In an age where masculinity, especially black masculinity, is being discussed and disassembled ad nauseam, Moonlight is a healthy respite. It’s a fresh, complex, and verisimilitudinous examination of a young African-American man—aimless and sexually uncertain—that remains burrowed inside the recesses of your mind for days after the final frame.
Release Date: Oct. 21

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