Best of the Fall Festivals: THR Critics' Picks From Toronto, Telluride and Venice

6:00 AM 9/16/2017

by THR Staff

Guillermo del Toro's latest fantasy, Greta Gerwig's debut behind the camera and a Tonya Harding biopic are among the best world premieres.

'The Shape of Water,' 'Lady Bird' and 'I, Tonya'
'The Shape of Water,' 'Lady Bird' and 'I, Tonya'
From left to right: Courtesy of Kerry Hayes/Twentieth Century Fox, Mere Wallace/A24 and TIFF

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Battle of the Sexes

    Telluride, Toronto

    Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's massively entertaining account of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone, terrific) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) also deftly deals with the numerous social issues inherent in the carnival-like contest. — Todd McCarthy

    Read THR's review.

  • Beast

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    First-feature director Michael Pearce takes tired tropes and fashions something fresh, fierce and striking in this atmospheric British thriller about a young woman drawn to an enigmatic outsider (fabulous newcomers Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn). — Leslie Felperin 

    Read THR's review.

  • Brad's Status

    Toronto

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    Ben Stiller delivers a finely shaded, fully rounded turn as an anxious father accompanying his gifted 17-year-old son (Austin Abrams) on a New England college tour in Mike White's sly, perceptive and emotionally stirring comedy of discomfort. — Jon Frosch 

    Read THR's review.

  • Dark River

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    A superb Ruth Wilson stars as a sheep-shearer haunted by an abusive past in this British drama from writer-director Clio Barnard. Of a piece thematically with the filmmaker's two previous features, doc The Arbor and drama The Selfish Giant, this one sketches a moving portrait of marginalized working-class cultures and the resilience of damaged children. — L.F.

    Read THR's review.

  • Disobedience

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Rachel Weisz stars as a black sheep drawn back to her London Orthodox Jewish home, rekindling sparks with a childhood friend played by Rachel McAdams in Sebastian Lelio's beautifully acted English-language debut. With Alessandro Nivola as the third point of the romantic triangle, this is a deeply felt drama that exerts a powerful grip. — David Rooney

    Read THR's review.

  • Downsizing

    Venice, Telluride, Toronto

    Alexander Payne's bold, brilliant latest tells the story of a man (Matt Damon) who shrinks himself to simplify his life. The result is captivating, funny and deeply humane — a film that, like the best classics, feels both entirely of its moment and timeless. — T.M.

    Read THR's review.

  • EX LIBRIS: The New York Public Library

    Venice, Toronto

    Courtesy of Zipporah Films

    In his latest doc, Frederick Wiseman observes the patrons and administrators of America's largest library after the Library of Congress. The result, though not without its challenges, is a stirring political statement as well as an exciting adventure of the mind. — Deborah Young

    Read THR's review.

  • The Final Year

    Toronto

    Reuters; Courtesy of Passion Pictures

    Greg Barker's fascinating, frequently moving doc provides a fly-on-the-wall perspective of former President Barack Obama's foreign policy team during their last months in office. The film makes a strong case that, despite missteps, these people approached the world with conviction and thoughtfulness. — Frank Scheck

    Read THR's review.

  • Foxtrot

    Venice, Telluride, Toronto

    Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

    Israeli director Samuel Maoz's (Lebanon) complex three-part drama revolves around a father grieving for his dead soldier son. Taking its place among the boldest, angriest critiques of contemporary Israel, specifically the army's use of immature young people to carry out its political agenda, the film is also an example of modernist cinema at its most harrowing. — D.Y.

    Read THR's review.

  • Hostiles

    Telluride, Toronto

    Scott Cooper's smart, sorrowful, persistently powerful Western tells the story of an army veteran (expertly played by Christian Bale) who escorts a Native American chief (Wes Studi) and his family from Arizona to Montana. Rosamund Pike and Ben Foster co-star. — T.M.

    Read THR's review.

  • I, Tonya

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Proving that she's more than capable of carrying a picture, Margot Robbie takes infectious pleasure in playing figure skater Tonya Harding in Craig Gillespie's lively, lurid and affecting comic biopic — though Allison Janney steals scenes as her mean old bat of a mother. — John DeFore 

    Read THR's review.

  • Jane

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Set to an emotional score by Philip Glass, Brett Morgen's doc about trailblazing wildlife conservationist Jane Goodall is a wondrous, moving account of a remarkable life that puts us right there with its subject to share directly in her discoveries. D.R.

    Read THR's review.

  • Lady Bird

    Telluride, Toronto

    Snappy, spirited and shot through with the pangs and pleasures of leaving childhood behind, Greta Gerwig's stellar solo first feature stars the marvelous Saoirse Ronan as a mildly rebellious Sacramento teen and a superb Laurie Metcalf as her harsh mother. — T.M.

    Read THR's review.

  • Lean on Pete

    Venice, Telluride, Toronto

    Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

    Charlie Plummer gives a breakout performance as an at-risk Oregon teen whose yearning for love and family propels him on a frontier odyssey in the lovely, slow-burning new film from Andrew Haigh (45 Years). It's a compassionately observed tale told with unimpeachable naturalism. — D.R.

    Read THR's review.

  • Molly's Game

    Toronto

    A fast and furious Jessica Chastain stars as Molly Bloom, who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game, in Aaron Sorkin's entertaining directorial debut. It's a singular story, neatly told — and one that makes you lean in to absorb every detail. — T.M.

    Read THR's review.

  • One of Us

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Following three Hasidic Jews who leave the fold over a fraught and eventful three-year period, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) have made a powerful doc that exposes the extremes of groupthink from the point of view of the disenchanted. The deeply personal insights about the subculture tap into something regrettably universal. — Sheri Linden

    Read THR's review.

  • A Season in France

    Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    After fleeing his war-ravaged country for France, an African high-school teacher (Eriq Ebouaney) strikes up a romance with a kind Frenchwoman (Sandrine Bonnaire) in the new work from Chadian auteur Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. The film is tough but also warm and subtly heartbreaking, offering a moving vision of life for those stuck in legal and emotional limbo. — Jordan Mintzer

    Read THR's review.

  • The Shape of Water

    Venice, Telluride, Toronto

    Sally Hawkins is exquisite as a mute cleaner at a U.S. government aerospace facility who bonds with an amphibious creature in Guillermo del Toro's visually and emotionally ravishing Cold War fairy tale, his most satisfying work since Pan's Labyrinth. — D.R.

    Read THR's review.

  • Sweet Country

    Venice, Toronto

    Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival

    A 1929-set outback Western inspired by true events, Warwick Thornton's film about an aboriginal couple on the run boasts visual grandeur, empathy and emotional depth, as well as sharp insights into Australian history, politics and racial tension. — D.R.

    Read THR's review.

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Venice, Toronto

    Frances McDormand is in stupendous form as a grieving mother driven by an implacable thirst for justice in Martin McDonagh's blisteringly funny and richly textured third feature, which also features Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell in plum supporting parts. — D.R.

    Read THR's review.

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