Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) Platform Prize winner
Directed by Warwick Thornton
Screening at the Adelaide Film Festival 7 & 8 October
Thornton’s outback drama won the Platform Prize voted on by a jury that included German director Wim Wenders, long fascinated by Australia’s outback. In his acceptance speech Thornton admitted the director was an influence in his becoming a filmmaker.
“When I was 14, Wim Wenders came to Alice Springs to look at a location for Until the End of the World. I remember seeing him, the town’s so small, and then he left. Then he came back, I think with cinematographer Robbie Müller and 100 crew members."
"He wouldn't remember me at all, but it was one of those big moments in my life to see that crew come to do amazing things, to build sets and tell stories—and then to leave. And coming from a small town I wanted to leave.
"I remember watching the film years later, because it takes 10 years for cinema to get to Alice Springs, and I just loved it even more. It was a small genesis in me becoming a filmmaker."
Samuel Goldwyn Films just acquired the film for US release.
"Warwick's film is beautiful even when it is brutal," Peter Goldwyn, Samuel Goldwyn Films president said. "We are very excited to work on a film that showcases this great rising talent."
Directed by Simon Baker
Out May 2018
Simon Baker can breathe more easily as his directing debut was well received. Tim Winton may have written this coming-of-age story focused on surfing, but the film version comes straight from Baker’s heart.
Directed by Stephen McCallum, written by Matt Nable
Screens at the Adelaide Film Festival 11 October
"Born to be mild," read the The Hollywood Reporter’s review header for Stephen McCallum’s debut feature indicating this Australian biker movie doesn't go far enough. It also doesn't quite fit into the festival format, perhaps the reason why The Hollywood Reporter was the only major publication to review the film out of the festival.
Genre films often stake their claim long after a festival is finished and this story of tough bikers might do just that. There’s certainly some fine casting with the biker men Paddo (Ryan Corr) and Sugar (Aaron Pederson) at the risk of being upstaged by some mighty feisty women, Katrina (Abbey Lee) and Hayley (Simone Kessell).
The Butterfly Tree
Written and directed by Priscilla Cameron
Out 12 October
TIFF programmers chose this artful Queensland-set Australian film as their hidden gem, and it must be the most upbeat, colourful film about cancer you're ever likely to see. Melissa George's florist chooses to see the brighter side of life and manages to drag Ewen Leslie’s lonely dad out of his malaise via his son, that scene-stealing Ed Oxenbould.
Directed by John Curran
Australian release date TBC (US: December)
The intrepid Aussie, Jason Clarke wasn’t really known here before he left for Hollywood. Now he continues his huge American run with a starring role as Teddy Kennedy and he’s convincing too. The film probably feels more like television, but is that a problem these days?
Clarke was also at the festival for Mud, which has been gaining Oscar momentum ever since its Sundance premiere and it just might be Netflix’s first real contender.
Directed by Craig Gillepsie
Out February 2018
This film took the ice-loving Canadians by storm, but how aware are sun-drenched Aussies of this fascinating and ultimately tragic story of champion figure skater Tonya Harding? You’re not going to get a straight telling here but Margot Robbie needs to be commended not only for her performance as Tonya - often speaking to the camera - but for her courage in getting this highly original faux documentary off the ground as its producer.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Written and directed by Angela Robinson
Out November (TBC)
This might first seem like a stodgy British period drama, but then comes the sexy stuff as a seemingly buttoned-up former psychology professor, William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), actually lives in an unconventional relationship with two women, his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and his former student Olive Byrne (Australian rising star Bella Heathcote from Fifty Shades Darker).
After suffering professional disgrace and firing, Marston is inspired by the women to create the Wonder Woman comic book series. Still, the film plays it too safe for The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "As well as showcasing the blandest and most tasteful three-way sex scene in history," he writes, "this movie spreads an odd pall of sentimentality and period-glow nostalgia over a fascinating real-life story.”
Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour
Out 2018 (TBC)
Saudi-Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour studied in Australia so we might at least claim part of her filmmaking skills as Australian-influenced. As with her stunning debut feature, Wadjda, about an enterprising Saudi girl, Mary Shelley is woman-centric with an impressive Elle Fanning as the initially uncredited 18 year-old genius behind the Frankenstein story, inspired by her relationship with Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). It’s fascinating to see the famous Romantic poets, including Shelley and Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) in their debauched youth.
The other hot films from TIFF
Directed by Joe Wright
Out 11 January 2018
Above anything that has come out of this festival season is Gary Oldman’s towering performance as Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s latest film. Sure we’ve already seen one Churchill movie already this year and even if the always reliable Brian Cox overplayed, he was fine. But Oldman has to be seen to be believed. He’s funny and lovable and powerful and cigar-chomping. If ever an actor deserved an Oscar, Oldman, with all his prosthetics has emerged the unrivalled favorite. Incredibly it will be his first.
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Australian release date TBC
Greta Gerwig’s directing debut was the talk of the festival. After co-writing and starring in the films of her now partner Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America), Gerwig shows she can stand on her own, with her semi-autobiographical story of growing up in Sacramento “the midwest of California”.
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) who is going from strength to strength, is the self-titled Lady Bird, a Gerwig surrogate 15 years ago, who in her final year of high school is deliberating about her future. The film is also a homage to Gerwig's mother, played in the film by Laurie Metcalfe. All three women look like strong awards contenders.
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Out 30 November
Probably the actress most on fire in Toronto was Jessica Chastain, whose cleavage in Molly’s Game deserved an award of its own. In his directing debut the hyper-articulate and ultra-smart Aaron Sorkin has met his match as Chastain wraps her luscious lips around his dialogue-soaked screenplay with ease.
The Disaster Artist
Directed by James Franco
Out 30 November
A kind of companion piece to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood starring Johnny Depp, though this is possibly even funnier. And Franco takes both roles as filmmaker and star, aka Tommy Wiseau, when he made 2003’s The Room. Wiseau attended the premiere, still sporting that long dyed jet- black hair before an ecstatic midnight crowd. This film could be a call for those social media-loving young’ens to stand up and be counted in cinemas.
Directed and written by Mike White
Out 9 November
Mike White, the hugely talented comedic writer of School of Rock and Beatriz at Dinner, directs here as well, helping deliver what must be one of Ben Stiller’s best performances as a man questioning his modest existence, when all his old friends are hugely successful. One would suspect the character must be as far from the life of the mega-rich star as you can get. Yet in interviews Stiller said you would be surprised.
The Children Act
Written by Ian McEwan, directed by Richard Eyre
Australian release date TBC
“In The Children Act the brilliant novelist Ian McEwan convincingly presents a complex woman in all her nuances,” writes the New York Daily News of yet another Emma Thompson tour de force performance.
The film marked the British novelist’s second TIFF entry after On Chesil Beach, an equally well-reviewed film yet again starring an exceptional Saoirse Ronan.
At 'The Children Act’s' world premiere audiences teared up profusely at the story of Thompson’s brilliant and widely admired judge, whose decisions parallel her own marital crisis and her childlessness as she rules in a uniquely painful case concerning a desperately sick teenage boy.