The Toronto International Film Festival returned September 8-18, 2022, for its 47th edition. For 11 days, TIFF featured international and Canadian cinema, special events, and TIFF’s Industry Conference, spotlighting diverse and innovative perspectives on the art and business of film. Eight days of film watching and events have led to some festival favorites we're sharing with you to be on the lookout for. Here's our Best of TIFF 2022 roundup.
Best of TIFF 2022
Anna Kendrick embodies the anxious psychology of a woman stuck in an abusive relationship as her friends try to reconnect with her while on a short holiday.
Alice (Anna Kendrick) is seemingly anxious, but no one is really sure as to why. When she’s invited on a cottage holiday to celebrate her friend’s birthday, she feels like she has to lie to her seemingly perfect boyfriend, Simon (Charlie Carrick), telling him that she's going on a business trip.
Alice's longtime friends, portrayed by Kaniehtiio Horn (“Letterkenny”) and Wunmi Mosaku (“Lovecraft Country,” “Loki”) want Alice to enjoy their time together, but she's distant. With Simon texting her nonstop, it becomes clear that she’s being monitored and her phone becomes a conduit for abuse. Once they realize what’s happening, her friends try to convince her that what he's doing isn’t normal, but she continues to doubt herself, unable to disconnect from Simon.
As the weekend progresses, everything hangs in the balance: their friendship and Alice's safety, as the trio becomes enmeshed in a psychological tug-of-war with Simon.
Director Mary Nighy captures the apprehension and dread that haunt domestic abuse victims. Nighy lends a heavy focus on the often imperceptible details that serve as warning signs, and, coupled with a meticulous performance from Kendrick, creates a tense atmosphere that serves as a unique portrait of psychological manipulation and one young woman’s effort to overcome an abusive relationship.
Rating: R, themes of anxiety and mental distress
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Mary Nighy
Cinematography: Mike McLaughlin
Executive Producers: Sam Tipper-Hale, Anna Kendrick, Laurie May, Adrian Love
Producers: Lindsay Tapscott, Katie Bird Nolan, Christina Piovesan, Noah Segal
Screenplay: Alanna Francis
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Kaniethiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku, Charlie Carrick
Filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz’s documentary explores a vibrant underground network of cross-dressing men and transgender women in the 1950s and 60s through archival images and interviews with the visitors of Casa Susanna in the Catskills in New York.
This clandestine group found temporary refuge and a sense of belonging by gathering in a large Victorian-style house known as Casa Susanna. The gatherings, hosted by Susanna (also known as Tito), and the legacy of this community, remained hidden until recent years when clues to its existence inspired a book of photographs and a play by Harvey Fierstein.
Lifshitz gives us the most fully realized history of Casa Susanna to date through personal memories of its visitors. “Kate” and “Diana,” who are both now in their eighties, share their eyewitness experiences interwoven with archival materials.
While Susanna often describes the haven for cross-dressing heterosexual men, and suggested that many visitors even brought their wives, Kate and Diana describe a more complicated and diverse spectrum of visitors who sought to better understand themselves at a time when gender nonconformity brought enormous personal risk.
As Kate and Diana take a sentimental journey back to Casa Susanna, it's clear that the joy, acceptance, and creativity with drag shows and photo shoots that took place in the Catskills stand out in their memories.
Casa Susanna opens our eyes to an earlier generation of truth seekers when expanding awareness of nonbinary and transgender experiences was more challenging.
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Sébastien Lifshitz
Cinematography: Paul Guilhaume, AFC
Editing: Tina Baz
Executive Producer: Cameo George
Producer: Muriel Meynard
Catherine Called Birdy
A 13th-century teenager (Bella Ramsey) rebels against her father (Andrew Scott) when he tries to marry her off to a wealthy man, in Lena Dunham’s playful adaptation of Karen Cushman’s bestselling novel.
Lena Dunham turns her feminist lens towards medieval England with an adaptation of Karen Cushman’s Newbery Medal-winning novel about a 14-year-old girl who navigates life avoiding potential suitors her father has in mind.
Bella Ramsey takes an enchanting sidestep from her role as Lyanna Mormont on “Game of Thrones” to play Birdy, who revels in causing chaos around her family’s village. When her father, Sir Rollo (Andrew Scott), the inept Lord of Stonebridge, is faced with financial destitution he sees only one way out: to find his daughter a wealthy husband who will secure the family’s future.
Birdy’s father and mother, Lady Aislinn (Billie Piper), are soon lining up a procession of suitors totally unsuitable to her. She dismisses each of them as quickly as possible with wit and whatever scheme she’s come up with.
Dunham offers a fun, fresh angle on themes she’s explored before in Catherine Called Birdy, by confronting sexism by juxtaposing it with the arcane customs of 13th-century Europe, not dismissing the chance to note just how far back the patriarchy stretches while highlighting the cheeky resilience that has kept girls like Birdy from letting it break them.
Rating: PG-13, for some suggestive material and themes
Runtime: 108 minutes
Director: Lena Dunham
Cinematography: Laurie Rose
Executive Producers: Michael P. Cohen, Liz Watson
Producers: Lena Dunham, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jo Wallett
Screenplay: Lena Dunham
Cast: Billie Piper, Andrew Scott, Paul Kaye, Joe Alwyn, Bella Ramsey, Isis Hainsworth, Lesley Sharp, Sophie Okonedo, Dean-Charles Chapman, Archie Renaux, Michael Woolfitt
GLASS ONION: A Knives Out Mystery
Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) travels to Greece for his latest case, in Rian Johnson’s follow-up to Knives Out.
In what is one of the year’s most anticipated films, Johnson brings us a new installment in the undertakings of detective Benoit Blanc. Eccentric and observant Blanc ventures to a Greek Island, and how he ends up there is just the first of many mysteries of the weekend he is about to embark upon.
Significantly different in tone from the first Knives Out, the characters in Glass Onion all have their own dark secrets. Blanc must figure out which of the island visitors has the most to lose in what I daresay is a film that surpasses the first in overall quality.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery joined an impressive list of films from writer-director Rian Johnson to have premiered at TIFF over the years, including The Brothers Bloom (2008), Looper (2012 Opening Night selection), and Knives Out (2019).
Genre: Mystery, Comedy
Rating: PG-13, for strong language, some violence, sexual material, and drug content
Runtime: 139 minutes
Director: Rian Johnson
Cinematography: Steve Yedlin
Executive Producer: Tom Karnowski
Producers: Ram Bergman, Rian Johnson
Screenplay: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista
Korean action star Lee Jung-jae (The Housemaid, Deliver Us from Evil) makes his directorial debut at the North American Premiere of HUNT with this 1980s-set Cold War espionage thriller. Set during a period of peak tensions between North and South Korea in the 1980s, “Squid Game” star Lee Jung-jae plays an intelligence chief who uncovers a plot to assassinate the president of South Korea while hunting for a mole within his own agency.
Co-starring Lee and Korean star Jung Woo-sung as government agents trying to snuff out a mole, Hunt draws the audience into a web of secrets where nothing is quite what it seems and no one knows who to trust. The result? An intense action film like you've never seen that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.
Following a failed assassination attempt on South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, KCIA Foreign Unit chief Park (Lee) and Domestic Unit head Kim (Jung) are charged with the task of identifying the conspirators. The men share a fraught history and each suspects the other of being a double agent. While the agents search for evidence against one another, their investigation leads them to a source, codenamed Donglim, who appears to have infiltrated the agency. Uncovering Donglim’s true identity will keep the men tethered together and deep in the action in this high-political stakes thriller.
Rating: intense violence and torture
Runtime: 125 minutes
Director: Lee Jung-jae
Cast: Lee Jung-jae, Jung Woo-sung, Jeon Hye-jin, Heo Sung-tae
Cinematography: Lee Mo-gae
Executive Producers: Hong Jeongin, Kim Jin-sun
Producers: Han Jae-duk, Lee Jung-jae
Screenplay: Lee Jung-jae, Jo Seung-hee
This tale of forbidden romance and changing social conventions follows three friends—policeman Tom (Harry Styles/Linus Roache), teacher Marion (Emma Corrin/Gina McKee), and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson/Rupert Everett)—and the trio's emotional journey spanning decades.
Tom (Harry Styles) is a young police officer who conforms to everything expected of him in 1950s Britain—but he instinctively feels a desire for more. When earnest schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin) meets him on a summer beach, she’s immediately enamored.
It isn’t long before the couple encounters Patrick (David Dawson), a sophisticated museum curator. They become fast friends, though quietly in the background, Patrick invites Tom to explore his sexual identity and a tenuous love triangle ensues. Tom is torn between his passion for Patrick and the love he holds for Marion and his 1950s conformity.
As the story unfolds, we fast forward to the older trio (Linus Roache, Gina McKee, and Rupert Everett), decades later, living under the weight of having changed each other and unspoken hurt. As the puzzle unfolds, we’re reminded of the existence of so many similar intimate stories lost to queer history i a time when people were not allowed to easily be themselves.
Rating: police violence, homophobic language
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Michael Grandage
Cast: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Rupert Everett, Gina McKee, Linus Roache
Cinematography: Ben Davis, BSC
Executive Producers: Michael Grandage, Michael Riley McGrath, Caroline Levy
Producers: Greg Berlanti, p.g.a., Sarah Schechter, p.g.a, Robbie Rogers, Cora Palfrey, p.g.a., Philip Herd, p.g.a.
Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner
In NANNY, a young Senegalese newcomer to New York is haunted by violent visions while working as a nanny and planning for the arrival of her own son, in writer-director Nikyatu Jusu’s mystical feature debut exploring the dangerous allure of the American Dream in the immigrant experience.
This striking feature debut from writer-director Nikyatu Jusu—winner of a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance ’22—casts a spell with its oneiric character study of a Senegalese immigrant working as a nanny for an upper-class New York couple while struggling to maintain her own identity and desires.
Rating: mature themes, not recommended for young children
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Nikyatu Jusu
Cast: Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls, Morgan Spector, Rose Decker, Leslie Uggams
Cinematography: Rina Yang
Executive Producers: Maria Zuckerman, Ryan Heller, Michael Bloom, Jason Blum, Rebecca Cammarata, Bill Benenson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Laurie Benenson, Grace Lay, Sumalee Montano, Nikyatu Jusu, Chris McCumber, Jeremy Gold
Producers: Nikkia Moulterie, Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Screenplay: Nikyatu Jusu
Sanctuary follows a dominatrix and Hal, her wealthy client, and the disaster that ensues when Hal tries to end their relationship.
Heir to an hotel empire (Christopher Abbott) and the Dominatrix who has primed him for success (Margaret Qualley) battle it out in a claustrophobic hotel room as he tries to end their relationship.
Abbott's Hal Porterfield prep to lead his late father’s hotel empire and arranges a final session with Rebecca (Margaret Qualley), a highly skilled Dominatrix. Rebecca has been providing services to help Hal become capable of being more dominant in his day-to-day in order to help him transform to be the person he believes he needs to be to follow in his father's footsteps.
However, over the course of their relationship and her transformation of Hal, she believes she is owed something as the newfound confidence he has discovered is entirely her doing.
As the two engage in a battle of wits, will, and more, director Zachary Wigon balances the power dynamic between the two as he explores class, capitalism, gender roles, and BDSM in this psychosexual thriller.
If you never thought a woman was capable of coming for what she felt she deserved when she was wronged, Sanctuary will tell you you were wrong.
WORLD PREMIERE at TIFF
Rating: R, sexual content involving sadomasochism, graphic sexual language
Runtime: 96 minutes
Director: Zachary Wigon
Cast: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley
Cinematography: Ludovica Isidori
Executive Producers: Margaret Qualley, Micah Bloomberg, Kyle Martin, Carole Baraton, Yohann Comte, Pierre Mazars, Elizaveta Chalenko, Maxim Dashkin, Jon Shiffman, Andrew Schwartzberg, Lisa Kjerulff, Nick Shumaker
Producers: David Lancaster, Stephanie Wilcox, Ilya Stewart, Pavel Burian
Screenplay: Micah Bloomberg
THE GOOD NURSE
Jessica Chastain portrays a hospital nurse faced with the growing suspicion that her co-worker and close friend (Eddie Redmayne) is quietly killing off patients, in this true-crime thriller from Tobias Lindholm.
Lindholm, longtime Thomas Vinterberg co-writer—teams with Jessica Chastain for his first American feature as director, in this thriller centered in the world of hospitals and healthcare—and based on one of the true stories of one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history.
Chastain's Amy is a nurse struggling with single-parenthood while trying to mitigate her own health scare. When new nurse Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) arrives at her New Jersey hospital, the two immediately strike up a strong friendship. Redmayne's Cullen is sweet, supportive, and the last person anyone would have initially thought to be a serial killer. Cullen fills an emotional gap in Amy’s life, helping her endure grueling night shifts and the physical demands of work as a healthcare professional while she is also sick.
Amy is mind-boggled when some of her patients begin dying mysteriously. Othe on their way to a full recovery start expiring for seemingly no reason. Local homicide detectives Danny Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Tim Braun (Noah Emmerich) see a suspicious pattern but are stonewalled by the hospital’s bureaucracy. As rumors about Cullen's past at other hospitals come to light, Amy becomes the investigators’ last hope as she begins to suspect he may be involved.
Redmayne’s subtlely disturbing performance as Cullen—who killed a confirmed 29 people, though the actual number is believed to be significantly higher—Lindholm elicits anxiety with each scene until the tension finally snaps. The Good Nurse goes beyond the formulaic true crime story, asking questions of the healthcare system such as how any institution could allow Cullen to get away with murder for so long.
Rating: R, mature themes
Runtime: 122 minutes
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kim Dickens, Malik Yoba, Alix West Lefler, Noah Emmerich
Cinematography: Jody Lee Lipes
Executive Producers: Ari Handel, Glen Basner, Jonathan Filley, Josh Stern
Producers: Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Michael A. Jackman
Screenplay: Krysty Wilson-Cairns