TIFF 2015 :: The films on my must-watch list


The countdown is on! In 26 days, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) rolls into town with film premieres (worldwide, North American and Canadian), parties, and the promise of celebrity sightings in tow.

And 2015 is even more special as TIFF celebrates its 40th birthday.

I am especially excited about the number of books making the leap to the big screen, so I thought I’d share my favorites with you as well those from the gala presentations, special presentations, and documentary film categories…

From Book to Big Screen

Black Mass | Special Presentation | Directed by Scott Cooper | USA | Canadian Premiere

Johnny Depp stars as notorious Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger, who spent thirty years as an FBI informant while rising to the top of the Boston underworld, in this adaptation of the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.

Brooklyn | Special Presentation | Directed by John Crowley | United Kingdom/Ireland/Canada | North American Premiere

In the early 1950s, a young Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) crosses the Atlantic to begin a new life in America, in this exquisitely crafted adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Colm Tóibín. I am currently reading and falling in love with this beautiful story.

The Dressmaker | Gala Presentation | Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse | Australia | World Premiere

Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, and Judy Davis star in this adaptation of the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, about a dressmaker who returns to her tiny Australian hometown from the chic fashion houses of Paris to put her past to rest — and revolutionize the local women’s couture while she’s at it.

The Family Fang | Special Presentation | Directed by Jason Bateman | USA | World Premiere

After an unlikely accident, a pair of grown siblings (Nicole Kidman and director-star Jason Bateman) are compelled to move back in with their eccentric parents (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett), situationist artists/professional practical jokers whose lifetime of public interventions have alienated their children. Based on the book by Kevin Wilson.

I Smile Back | Special Presentation | Directed by Adam Salky | USA | Canadian Premiere

Sarah Silverman gives an astonishing performance as a drug-addicted, self-destructive New Jersey housewife whose life begins to come apart at the seams, in this blistering adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Amy Koppelman.

The Martian | Gala Presentation | Directed by Ridley Scott | USA | World Premiere

Stranded on Mars, a NASA astronaut (Matt Damon) struggles to survive on the arid planet while his ground crew races to mount a rescue mission, in this interplanetary epic from director Ridley Scott.

Room | Special Presentation | Directed by Lenny Abrahamson | Ireland/Canada | Canadian Premiere

Escaping from the captivity in which they have been held for half a decade, a young woman and her five-year-old son struggle to adjust to the strange, terrifying and wondrous world outside their one-room prison. I devoured Emma Donoghue’s captivating novel during a plane ride in 2011 and I am beyond thrilled about its move to the big screen.

Other Gala Presentations and Special Presentations

Colonia | Special Presentation | Directed by Florian Gallenberger | Germany/Luxembourg/France | World Premiere

Two young lovers (Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl) find themselves trapped in the murderous crackdown following the 1973 coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende.

Desierto | Special Presentation | Directed by Jonás Cuarón | Mexico/France | World Premiere

Jonás Cuarón directs Gael García Bernal in this thriller about a group of would-be immigrants whose dream of entering the US becomes a nightmare when a deranged vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) begins stalking them through the Sonoran Desert.

Disorder | Gala Presentation | Directed by Alice Winocour | France/Belgium | North American Premiere

Disorder centres on a young ex-soldier, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), recently returned from combat and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Lost and aimless, willing to do any work that might come his way, he takes a job as a security guard for a lavish party hosted at “Maryland,” a luxurious seaside villa. His eyes settle on the beautiful hostess, Jessie (Diane Kruger) — while his ears overhear matters that are none of his business. When Jessie’s husband travels to Geneva on business, Vincent is taken on as bodyguard for Jessie and her child. It is not long before he perceives a threat, and must draw on his military training to keep the three of them one step ahead of danger.

Families (Belles Familles) | Special Presentation | Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau | France | World Premiere

Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Grand Budapest Hotel) stars in this rollicking and romantic country-house farce from lauded director Jean-Paul Rappeneau (Cyrano de Bergerac, The Horseman on the Roof).

Maggie’s Plan | Special Presentation | Directed by Rebecca Miller | USA | World Premiere

Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) stars in the new film from gifted writer-director Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity), about a young woman whose determination to have a child involves her in a love triangle with an unhappy academic (Ethan Hawke) and his eccentric critical-theorist wife (Julianne Moore).

Remember | Gala Presentation | Directed by Atom Egoyan | Canada/Germany | North American Premiere

A nursing-home resident (Academy Award Winner Christopher Plummer) sets out to exact vengeance on the man who murdered his family seven decades earlier, in this compelling thriller from master director Atom Egoyan.

Sicario | Special Presentation | Directed by Denis Villeneuve | USA | North American Premiere

An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) joins two shadowy government operatives (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) in a high-risk, cross-border sting against a Mexican cartel boss, in this gritty drug-war thriller from Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners). The trailer, Denis Villeneuve, and the all-star cast sold me on this one.

Spotlight | Special Presentation | Directed by Tom McCarthy | USA | International Premiere

An urgent procedural concerning one of the most painful scandals in recent memory, the latest from writer-director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) tells the true story of how the Boston Globe revealed the Catholic Church’s cover-up of widespread child molestation within the Massachusetts priesthood. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton star in this true story.

Trumbo | Special Presentation | Directed by Jay Roach | USA | World Premiere

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) stars as the famous screenwriter and Hollywood blacklist victim Dalton Trumbo, in this engrossing biopic co-starring Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, Diane Lane and John Goodman.

Ville-Marie | Special Presentation | Directed by Guy Édoin | Canada | World Premiere

Monica Bellucci stars in the second feature by Quebec director Guy Édoin, about four people whose very different lives intersect one fateful night in downtown Montreal.

Tiff Docs

Bolshoi Babylon | Directed by Nick Read | United Kingdom | World Premiere

Director Nick Read gains remarkable access to inner workings of Russia’s world-famous Bolshoi Ballet as the company weathers the fallout from the notorious 2013 acid attack on the ballet’s Director Sergei Filin.

Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr | Directed by Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard | Canada | World Premiere

Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was captured by American forces in Afghanistan in 2002 and spent a decade imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, tells his own story in his own words, in this documentary portrait from directors Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers | Directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy | USA/Pakistan | World Premiere

Documentarians Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (the Academy Award-winning Saving Face) and Geeta Gandbhir follow the stories of three Bangladeshi policewomen who served with the UN peacekeeping mission to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Miss Sharon Jones! | Directed by Barbara Kopple | USA | World Premiere

Two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA) follows R&B queen Sharon Jones over the course of an eventful year, as she battles a cancer diagnosis and struggles to hold her band the Dap-Kings together.

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble | Directed by Morgan Neville | USA | World Premiere

Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) profiles celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, which brings together master musicians from around the world to teach, collaborate, and perform.

Sherpa | Directed by Jennifer Peedom | Australia/United Kingdom | Canadian Premiere

This stunningly shot and nail-bitingly suspenseful documentary follows Phurba Tashi Sherpa as he undertakes his world-record-setting 22nd ascent of Mount Everest.

Which films are you most looking forward to watching? I’d love to hear in comments.

For the full list of films and ticket information, visit the TIFF website.

(All film details via TIFF.)

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