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My Preliminary TIFF ’18 Picks

by Raquel Stecher

Anticipation is building for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The programmers released their full list of galas and special presentations last week and I dove into the list to single out the films I’m most interested in. But honestly all of them sound amazing. Once the full schedule comes out next month I’ll be combing through the final list making what I’m sure will be some very difficult decisions.

Here is the list of galas and special presentations that stood out to me.




Beautiful Boy

  • directed by Felix van Groeningen
  • starring Steve Carrell, Timothee Chalamet
  • Trailer

Beautiful Boy is based on Nic Sheff’s memoir about his struggle with drug addiction and his father David Sheff’s own memoir response. It looks to be both a harrowing story about addiction and a touching story about the bond between a father and son. I predict this will be one of the top films to see at the festival and will be hard to get into. I’m not sure I’m ready for the emotional roller-coaster this film will send me on but I’d love to see Timothee Chalamet ( Call Me By Your Name changed my life) on the big screen again.


First Man

First Man

  • directed by Damien Chazelle
  • starring Ryan Gosling
  • Trailer

Biopic. check. Period drama. check. I loved La La Land  and I’m curious about this new film from Chazelle about the life and times of Neil Armstrong. It follows Armstrong’s journey from his early days at NASA to the historic moment when he landed on the moon in 1969. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so this is a timely biopic that audiences will be ready for.



Hidden Man

  • directed by Jiang Wen
  • starring Eddie Peng
  • Trailer

I was mesmerized by the trailer for this period thriller about a spy who goes home to seek revenge. Set in China, Hidden Man looks to be equal parts Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill and I’m here for it. If I don’t get into this film screening, I wouldn’t mind watching Zhang Yimou’s Shadow which looks like a visual masterpiece.



The Public

  • directed by Emilio Estevez
  • starring Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone etc.
  • Trailer

Estevez is a triple threat as The Public‘s director, writer and star. This urban drama follows a group of homeless library patrons who refuse to leave the library in the middle of winter because the city’s emergency shelters are full. The sit-in quickly escalates into a standoff with the authorities. I’m hoping this film delivers a poignant social message in the midst of the escalating drama.



Red Joan

  • directed by Trevor Nunn
  • starring Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I want to see this for one reason: Judi Dench. And if I see her in person at TIFF I might pass out. This is a reality. And it doesn’t hurt that this period drama about a British physicist turned KGB spy sounds super interesting. The story is inspired by the real life KGB spy Melita Norwood. This is theatre director Trevor Nunn’s return to film directing. His last film was Twelfth Night: Or What You Will (1996) which I watched as a teenager infatuated with period pieces and literary adaptations.



A Star is Born

  • directed by Bradley Cooper
  • starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
  • Trailer

As someone who loves classic movies, I’m curious about this fourth iteration of A Star is Born. The 1937 version starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor is still the gold standard but I’m keeping an open mind for this one. Cooper’s directorial debut is a remake of the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson 1976 version. The story follows musicians who fall in love but whose very different career trajectories put their relationship in jeopardy. The Lady Gaga documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two premiered at last year’s TIFF and I’m excited that she’ll be back at the festival.




  • directed by Steve McQueen
  • starring Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Colin Farrell, and Michelle Rodriguez
  • Trailer

This film looks so bad-ass! Four women are left widows when their criminal husbands are killed in a botched heist. Instead of allowing themselves to be victims of their circumstances, the women take action and set out to finish the job that their husbands started. I love the cast and the trailer had me on the edge of my seat.


Special Presentations




  • directed by Wash Westmoreland
  • starring Keira Knightley
  • Trailer

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley but she always finds a way to be in movies I’m dying to see. This biopic about the provocative French writer Colette explores the struggle of early women writers and the sexual dynamics of turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque France all with a bit of gender-bending thrown in. I’m all over this one like a bad rash. With Colette, I’m hoping for a film celebrating female empowerment and independence.


Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • directed by Marielle Heller
  • starring Melissa McCarthy
  • Trailer

By day I work in book publishing so this biopic about author turned forger Lee Israel is right up my alley. Melissa McCarthy is one of my favorite actresses and I can’t wait to see her in this role. The TIFF website calls this film “charming” but I’m hoping Israel’s exploits will have be squirming in my seat. I love a good story about deception and the consequences of being caught red-handed.



If Beale Street Could Talk

  • directed by Barry Jenkins
  • starring Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King

I adored Jenkins’ Moonlight and Raoul Peck’s James Baldwin doc I Am Not Your Negro  so this seems like a natural fit. The racial tension in Baldwin’s novels are still so relevant today so I’m excited to see how Jenkins delivers this message to the big screen.



Old Man and the Gun

  • directed by David Lowery
  • starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Casey Affleck
  • Trailer

Could this be Robert Redford’s swan song before he retires for good? If it is, I’m not about to miss it. Redford is joined by Sissy Spacek and an all-star cast in this tale of a professional bank robber who falls in love and is determined to live life on his own terms.



Papi Chulo

  • directed by John Butler
  • starring Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino

I was hoping for a good Latino/a story to pop up in the TIFF line-up and maybe this is it? No trailer yet but the synopsis looks intriguing. Set in Los Angeles, lonely weatherman hires a Latino immigrant to be his friend. I’m intrigued, tell me more!




  • directed by László Nemes
  • Trailer

Shot in 35mm for you film nerds out there, Hungarian director Nemes’ movie is about a young milliner who tries to work at her parents’ hat store but is turned away by the new owner. It looks to be a good period piece.



The Wedding Guest

  • directed by Michael Winterbottom
  • starring Dev Patel

Michael Winterbottom’s Jude was one of the pivotal movies I saw in my youth. In this film, Dev Patel stars as a young British muslim man who treks across Pakistan and India. There’s no trailer and very limited information on the movie so I’m basing my interest on the director, star and basic concept.



Where Hands Touch

  • directed by Amma Asante
  • starring Amandla Stenberg

This WWII drama tells the story of a young Black German teenager who falls in love with a member of the Hitler Youth. I’m here for the unusual twist on a coming-of-age romance and for the female directed period piece.




  • directed by Paul Dano
  • starring Ex Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

I’ve already heard a lot of buzz about Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife. Set in the 1960s, it follows the story of a teenage boy as he deals with his parent’s divorce. You had me with the period aesthetics and the cast now all I need is a good story and I’ll be happy.


I’m hoping when TIFF releases the new schedule that there will be some more films directed by women and LGBTQ stories to add to my repertoire!

5 thoughts on “My Preliminary TIFF ’18 Picks Leave a comment

  1. Colette and Beautiful Boy are my #1 picks at TIFF this year. I’m dying to see both! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you get to see/meet Judi Dench – how amazing would that be?!

    • Vanessa, they’d have to carry me out of there on a stretcher. Seeing Judi Dench in person would be a dream come true.

  2. I think Beautiful Boy and First Man will get nominated for Oscars. I really wanna see First Man! Imagine if it was a musical, lol!

    I’ve never seen any adaptation of A Star is Born yet, so I’m not really excited for this new film. I should check out the James Mason version first.

    • That would be funny as a musical! I recommend starting with the 1937 A Star is Born. It’s truly the best.