Thirteen must-see movies at TIFF this year
From buzz-worthy flicks to indie picks, you’re going to want to snag tickets to these
It’s finally the first week of September, which means the Toronto International Film Festival is back and poised to take over the city. While this year’s festivities may look slightly different from those of previous years as the ongoing SAG-ACTRA strike finds many Hollywood actors opting out of red carpet appearances to protest low pay, labour conditions and the use of AI, TIFF is still a must-attend event thanks to the impressive slate of films premiering. From star-studded, based-on-real-life films like Dumb Money, about the GameStop versus Wall Street saga, to movies from Canadian icons, like Atom Egoyan’s Seven Veils, there’s no shortage of features to add to your watch list. Here, 13 must-see movies at this year’s TIFF.
Seven Veils (Atom Egoyan)
Directed by Canadian film icon Atom Egoyan and co-presented with the Canadian Opera Company, psychodrama Seven Veils is one of this year’s most-hyped titles. Amanda Seyfried stars as Jeanine, a troubled young theatre director who is remounting a Canadian Opera Company production of Salome after the death of her mentor. As she works on the production, Jeanine is forced to reckon with her history with the opera, her relationship with her deceased mentor and her own family.
The Boy and the Heron (Hayao Miyazaki)
Opening the festival this year, animated film The Boy and the Heron is the latest from famed Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. The movie takes place during the Second World War and follows a young boy who moves to the countryside after a family tragedy, where his father gets a job making planes for Japan’s military. The film has already been heralded as a masterpiece. It’s also the first Japanese and the first animated film to open the festival.
Next Goal Wins (Taika Waititi)
Starring Michael Fassbender and Elisabeth Moss, this comedy from actor-director Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) is based on the real-life story of the American Samoan soccer team’s attempt to qualify for the World Cup in 2014—12 years after its infamous 31–0 loss in a 2002 World Cup qualifying match.
Close to You (Dominic Savage)
This intimate Canadian feature starring Elliot Page follows Sam (Page) on his trip back home to Cobourg from Toronto for the first time since transitioning. On his way, a chance encounter with a high school friend forces the pair to confront feelings from their unresolved past.
Dumb Money (Craig Gillespie)
Remember when, at the height of the pandemic, everyone was suddenly investing in GameStop? Dumb Money, directed by I, Tonya’s Craig Gillespie, tells the real-life story of the group of Redditors who weaponized meme stocks like GameStop against Wall Street hedge funds, who were betting on them to fail. Starring Seth Rogen as hedge fund manager Gabe Plotkin and Paul Dano as amateur investor Keith Gill, Dumb Money is a look at the creativity of the internet, online communities and how a small gamble became a national battle.
Fitting In (Molly McGlynn)
Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) is a teenage girl who is excited to lose her virginity to her boyfriend—until she finds out that she has a rare reproductive abnormality called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which means that she doesn’t have a uterus or cervix and has a shortened vaginal canal. While other kids are dating, having sex and going to parties, Lindy struggles with her diagnosis in this darkly funny film from Canadian director Molly McGlynn.
Concrete Utopia (Um Tae-hwa)
Concrete Utopia is a post-apocalyptic epic that takes place in Seoul after a massive earthquake hits the city. Among the rubble, survivors try to pick up the pieces—but they soon realize that the real disaster has only just begun. The film is also South Korea’s entry for this year’s Best International Film race at the 2024 Oscars.
Backspot (D. W. Waterson)
In this film directed by Toronto DJ and filmmaker D. W. Waterson, a driven cheerleader (played by Reservation Dogs’ Devery Jacobs) fights to handle the pressure she feels when she and her girlfriend are both selected for an elite cheer squad.
Pain Hustlers (David Yates)
Harry Potter director David Yates takes on the world of pharmaceutical greed in this must-watch drama. Emily Blunt stars as Liza, a single mom working as a dancer when she meets a drug rep (Chris Evans) who recruits her to push a new type of painkiller designed to give relief to cancer patients. She begins to scheme in order to hit her sales quota—but at what cost?
Hell of a Summer (Finn Wolfhard, Billy Bryk)
This campy horror-comedy starring and directed by now-grown-up former child actors Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk sits in familiar territory for the pair, in line with genre throwbacks like Stranger Things and the Ghostbusters reboot. Hell of a Summer is inspired by ’80s slashers and follows a group of camp counsellors as a masked killer terrorizes their camp.
Hate to Love: Nickelback (Leigh Brooks)
Has there ever been a band both as loved and as reviled as Nickelback? This Canadian documentary is all about the iconic band’s rise, highs and lows. If you can’t grab tickets to the movie, no worries: Nickelback is playing a free concert on Festival Street on Friday, September 8.
Quiz Lady (Jessica Yu)
Starring Sandra Oh and Awkwafina as polar-opposite sisters, this heartwarming comedy follows the pair as they come together to pay off their mother’s gambling debts by concocting a plan to win a Jeopardy–style quiz show.
Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet)
Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this French film follows a German writer, Sandra, who is arrested for murder following her husband’s mysterious death. With their visually impaired son as the only witness, Sandra has to prove her innocence in a suspenseful drama.