13. Everybody Knows (directed by Asghar Farhadi, Spain/France/Italy)
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation , The Salesman ) latest film, Everybody Knows, takes us to sun-soaked Spain and offers up a first-rate cast that includes Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, and Ricardo Darín.
Expertly spinning a gossamer web of deceit, misdoing and deep mistrust, Farhadi is in his element as Laura (Cruz) returns home to her native Spain for her sister’s wedding. In so doing, Laura leaves her husband Alejandro (Darín) in Argentina and she is reunited with a longtime family friend (with benefits) named Paco (Bardem). Do things get tense and fraught? You have no idea, as Everybody Knows winds into a powerful kidnap drama you won’t soon forget.
12. Under the Silver Lake (directed by David Robert Mitchell, USA)
David Robert Mitchell follows up his stunning 2014 film It Follows with this psychological headtrip that seems to land somewhere between Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and David Lynch’s brand of meta-horror movie.
When Sam (Andrew Garfield) begins to puzzle over the strange disappearance of his dreamy neighbour (Riley Keough) he soon goes down a deranged Tinseltown rabbit hole, taking us along with him.
Along the way a Rogue’s Gallery of ne’er do-wells crop up that includes a bizarro owl woman (Karen Nitsche), a paranoid zine writer (Patrick Fischler) as well as appearances from Topher Grace and Sydney Sweeney in this neo-noir tragicomic nightmare. Getting lost in this hypnotic haze with Garfield’s amateur-sleuth sounds like a lot of devilish fun, don’t it?
11. Non-Fiction (directed by Olivier Assayas, France)
VIFF favorite Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper ) brings his 12th film to the festival with Non-Fiction, a comedy of errors and relationships that reteams the director with his occasional muse Juliette Binoche (2013’s Clouds of Sils Maria was their last pairing).
Selena (Binoche) is a successful actress wed to Alain (Guillaume Canet) a publisher who is too stressed-out for his own good. Sadly for Alain, Selena has grown bored with him and when Leonard (Vincent Macaigne) and his wife Valerie (Nora Hamzawi) appear on the scene –– Leonard is a very demanding novelis that Alain must deal with –– a comedy of manners materializes.
As clever and quirky as Assayas’s finest films, Non-Fiction promises visual flair and verbal brio, and with such capable hands as these, it’s sure to be a fair bit of fun and tomfoolery.
10. The House That Jack Built (directed by Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany)
Earlier this year the former persona non grata Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves , Dancer in the Dark ) brought his latest, The House That Jack Built, to Cannes and, in atypical provocateur fashion, the audience was split down the middle and either walked out in disgust or stuck around to enthusiastically laud with a standing-o.
A no-punches are pulled horror film, The House That Jack Built is in the tradition of John McNaughton’s deeply disturbing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) as our titular villain Jack (Matt Dillon), a unrepentant killer, takes down his quarry.
Also in the cast are Bruno Ganz, RIley Keough, and Uma Thurman and audiences can expect an uncomfortable, uncompromising, and unrelenting experience.
“Through the unrelentingly inhumane depravity that seethes through every fiber of this hellscape,” writes Filmmaker critic Blake Williams, “all I know is that what I saw and felt was filled with an indescribable beauty.”
9. Boy Erased (directed by Joel Edgerton, USA)
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton (2015’s The Gift), and based off of Garrad Conely’s moving 2016 memoir, Boy Erased looks at the gay conversion therapy of a sensitive 19-year-old young man named Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges). Sent to a conversion therapy center by his Baptist minister father, Marshall (Russell Crowe), and uptight mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman), he is handed over to one Victor Sykes (Edgerton), head of the ironically named Love in Action program.
Sure to be packed with emotional heft and the frustrations of fundamentalist mentality, Boy Erased also has a sterling supporting cast that includes Montreal-born writer/director Xavier Dolan, South African YouTuber Troye Sivan, and expert lensing from DP Eduard Grau (A Single Man ).
8. The Sisters Brothers (directed by Jacques Audiard, France/Belgium/Romania/Spain)
No stranger to adapting beloved literature to the big screen, Jacque Audiard, whose 2012 hit Rust and Bone combined two sterling short stories by Craig Davidson, now sets his literary remodeling sights on Patrich de Witt’s 2011 revisionist Western/historical novel “The Sisters Brothers” and I for one, cannot wait to see the results (I’ve read the novel twice, it’s THAT good)!
John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix are perfectly cast as the eponymous brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters, respectively. As they stumble and tumble their way through Oregon and environs circa 1851, these gunslingin’, horse lovin’, and hard livin’ hitmen may have bitten off more than they can chew when they accept a job to assassinate a gold prospector (Riz Ahmed) who’s in cahoots with a detective named John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). Soon the Sisters brothers are switching sides and pissing off the Commodore (Rutger Hauer) while they’re at it, and I’ll be damned if Eli’s horse isn’t looking worse for wear.
With the Wild West landscapes being lensed by cinematographer Benoît Debie (Enter the Void , Climax ), this is sure to be a genre picture of excellent pedigree, and it’s already claimed a Silver Lion at Venice, so what other incentive do you need?
7. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (directed by Marielle Heller, USA)
In 2015 writer-director Marielle Heller made an impressive debut with the tragicomedic coming-of-ager The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and her follow-up shows considerable promise, the true-life caper Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy is already garnering raves as Lee Israel, a celebrated author and likeable criminal who made her claim to notoriety fame as a one-woman forgery scam artist operating out of her Upper West Side studio.
Forging hundreds of letters from the likes of Noël Coward, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker, Israel recreated their autographs and sold her “memorabilia” to high-paying dealers across the USA.
Adapted from Israel’s memoir, and further fleshed out by Nicole Holofcener’s screenplay, Can You Ever Forgive Me? looks to be the genuine article. Not to be missed.
6. The Old Man & the Gun (directed by David Lowery, USA)
“The Old Man & the Gun generally feels like the best kind of tribute,” writes IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, “one that understands the material so well that it inhabits its very essence.” And so writer-director David Lowery follows up last year’s arthouse sleeper A Ghost Story with this cops and robbers comedy caper (based on David Grann’s New Yorker article) that looks to be one of VIFF 2018’s best bets.
Robert Redford, in what’s to be his final role before he retires from acting, is affable bank robber Forrest Tucker, who at 78 years old is planning one last heist. Not only is Tucker renowned for his bank robbing prowess, he’s also regarded as “one the world’s greatest prison escapologists”, having escaped from the big house 18 times over the years.
Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek stars as Jewel, Tucker’s love-interest, and Casey Affleck is John Hunt, the law man on his tail, and rounding out the impressive cast is Keith Carradine, Danny Glover, Elisabeth Moss, Tika Sumpter, and Tom Waits.
5. Shadow (directed by Zhang Yimou, China)
The brilliant visionary behind such sumptuous classics as Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Hero (2002), and House of Flying Daggers (2004), Zhang Yimou, is back, and how can you not be first in line for what he’s got next? A guaranteed sensory spectacle, Shadow is a period piece set during China’s Three Kingdoms era (AD 220-280), and pairs palace chicanery with amazing martial arts. Say no more.
4. Parallel (directed by Isaac Ezban, Canada)
One of VIFF 2018’s most hotly anticipated films comes from Mexican filmmaker Isaac Ezban, a director whose two previous films (The Incident , The Similars ) are cerebral sci-fi with shades of Rod Serling, and who now, after a hard to hold three year wait, returns to us with another Twilight Zone-style serving.
Parallel concerns a group of app developers (played by Aml Ameen, Georgia King, Mark O’Brien, and Martin Wallström) who happen upon a mirror that holds a portal to numerous parallel dimensions. Seeing an opportunity to forward their personal and professional lives they decide to experiment with the multiverses that open up before them. Could anything go wrong? Probably nah, right?
Ezban, working with a script from Scott Blaszak and teaming with cinematographer Karim Hussain (We Are Still Here , Hobo With a Shotgun ), offer up a nightmarish, senses skewing, bone rattler that’s sure to dog viewers for days afterward. Let’s take this trip and hopefully we’ll all come out unscathed on the other side.
3. Shoplifters (directed by Koreeda Hirokazu, Japan)
Having netted the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2018, VIFF favourite Kore-eda Hirokazu (Like Father, Like Son , After the Storm ) returns with a film about crime and love. Sasaki Miyu plays a little girl found alone in the cold by Osamu (Lily Franky) and Shota (Jyo Kairi), and they take her home for a hot meal. After it becomes clear that the girl is an abuse victim, she is welcomed into the Shibata family. And though they are very poor, they are loving and happy, but can their happiness last? And having to resort regularly to theft to survive, will it all come crashing down?
“This is a film that steals in and snatches your heart,” writes the Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin. Always a sensitive and nuanced filmmaker, Kore-eda’s films offers genuflections of love, subtle visual splendors, superb and utterly convincing performances and a rich portraiture of humanity. What’s not to love?
2. Cold War (directed by Pawel Pawlikowski)
Having gained acclaim the world over with 2013’s Oscar-winning Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War is sure to enamor us all once more. Having already received Best Director at Cannes earlier this year, this powerful “anti-romance”, filmed in marvellous monochrome is guaranteed to me a mesmerizing dark jewel. Sure to be one of the year’s most discussed films, we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
1. The Favourite (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/USA)
Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek iconoclast behind such staggering works as Dogtooth (2009), The Lobster (2015) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) presents audiences with yet another jet black comedy that shreds apart the human condition.
Surprisingly a period piece, The Favourite is set in 18th-century England in the decadent court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone round out the main cast as Lanthimos mutates the tropes of the powdered-wig period drama like a black magician.
“A propos of its subject, The Favourite feels like a crowning achievement,” raves IndieWire’s Michael Nordine, adding that “the skullduggery is hilarious in its absurdity, but as the stakes get higher you begin to pity all involved… As is often the case with Lanthimos, there’s a deep well of sadness beneath the humorous surface.” We cannot wait!
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.