The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival is fast approaching, merely days away. The TIFF 2022 programmers are still adding titles and talks to the line-up, shifting many people’s plans (including my own). Also switching up people’s schedules are early reactions coming from the Venice and Telluride festivals. Women Talking, for instance, received rapturous praise at Telluride, with some already declaring it an awards frontrunner.
Amidst the present and impending chaos are a slew of films that may not have the early buzz of The Whale or Empire of Light, but could still break big in their own right. These are the some of these films. (You can read my assessment of the festival’s most exciting high-profile movies here.)
A very late entry to TIFF’s Special Presentations slate, Biosphere is dramedy about the last two men on Earth, who must work together to save humanity somehow. It is the first directorial feature by Mel Eslyn, who has produced several projects including the Independent Spirit Award-winning film 7 Days. Biosphere stars Mark Duplass and Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown. The premise is interesting, yes. Brown’s presence, however, is reason enough to shove the film into an already-crowded schedule.
It’s been awhile since the last adaptation of Carmen: MTV’s hip-hop opera starring a 2001-era Beyoncé. Benjamin Millepied’s first directorial feature appears to be another modern interpretation, this time casting Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal (also starring in the buzzy TIFF title Aftersun) as the star-crossed lovers. This Carmen takes place at the U.S.-Mexico border, framing the fraught romance in an even more fraught socio-political landscape. Anyone familiar with Carmen’s story knows the tragedy about to unfold, but seeing it resurrected with such cultural resonance could breathe new life into the centuries-old take.
Any opportunity to see more of Kelvin Harrison Jr. is a good time. After breaking out in the under-appreciated Waves, Harrison Jr. stars in Chevalier as Joseph Bologne, an ambitious and brilliant French composer who shatters racial barriers within the aristocracy. Based on a true story set in Marie Antoinette’s royal court, the film promises plenty of visual and musical splendor, bubbling romance (with Minnie Driver and Samara Weaving), palace intrigue, and certainly cultural resonance. If the promotional image above bursts with such life, one can expect Chevalier to be thrillingly overwhelming and grand.
Decision to Leave
Decision to Leave is probably the buzziest of the titles listed here, so much so that I should’ve included it in my high-profile lineup list. The anticipation is justified: it is Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s followup to The Handmaiden, the sexually-charged psychological thriller that set Cannes ablaze in 2016. Decision to Leave is just as mysterious, but reportedly a warmer, romantic affair. In the film, detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) falls in love with Seo-rae (Tang Wei), the widow of the man whose death he’s investigating. Decision to Leave is less about whether Seo-rae is guilty or not, and more about the messy trappings of forbidden love.
On the Come Up
Sanaa Lathan is following in the footsteps of Gina Prince-Bythewood, who directed her in Love & Basketball. Lathan will join her at TIFF as a director in her own right, behind the camera of On the Come Up. Based on the bestselling novel by Angie Thomas, the film follows Bri (Jamila C. Gray), a young woman trying to break into rap music after her father is killed. The story promises to be one of perseverance and integrity in an industry that rewards the former and jettisons the latter. With supporting performances by Method Man, Mike Epps and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, On the Come Up has the makings of a deeply-felt dramatic crowdpleaser.
A hotel empire heir and a dominatrix walk into a bedroom and…break up? That is the premise of Sanctuary, Zachary Wigon’s new film starring Sundance favorite Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley. BDSM relationships have gotten a bad rap in mainstream Hollywood, thanks to films like the Fifty Shades trilogy. However, Sanctuary appears to focus on the psychology of the relationship and the messy consequences that might come from its end. It will likely be one of TIFF’s spicier entries given the subject matter, but any film digging into the American aristocracy’s hangups about sexuality is worth a (consensual) ride.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever
Four years after winning the Best Picture Oscar for Green Book, Peter Farrelly is back at TIFF with another historical dramedy. The Greatest Beer Run Ever is the true story of two men embarking on a daring mission to deliver good wishes and, of course, beer to soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Like Green Book, it appears to be a buddy film masquerading as a historical lesson, with Zac Efron and Russell Crowe filling the roles that Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali played. Also like Green Book, the Vietnam War was a messy, complicated moment in time. The film’s premise is intriguing, to say the least. I just hope that Farrelly has a better handling of the nuances this time around.
You can follow all of my coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival here.