All the movies we can't wait to see at TIFF 2019

Robert Pattinson as a lighthouse keeper? Indonesian superheroes? Serious real-life dramas? Yes, please. Check out our staff picks.

Robert Pattinson as a lighthouse keeper? Indonesian superheroes? Serious real-life dramas? Yes, please!

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star in The Lighthouse. Shot in Nova Scotia, it's one of the hyped TIFF titles we really, really, really want to see. (Courtesy of TIFF)

Tickets to the 2019 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival went on sale to the public Monday, and whether you're planning a 10-day movie marathon, or just hoping and wishing to score a rush seat, first things first.

What's actually worth watching?

With 245 features at this year's TIFF, it's an overwhelming question, but for a highly subjective (and hopefully helpful) take, here's what our team's dying to see. 

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

TIFF 2017 was the year of Lady Bird and the Shape of Water, but for me, the most memorable moment was a last-minute detour to watch Never Steady, Never Still, Kathleen Hepburn's mesmerizing tale of Parkinson's and grief in the oil patch. The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is her follow-up, a film she co-wrote and co-directed with the young Indigenous filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, who also stars as a woman whose life is knocked off course by a chance encounter on the street. Based on a similar encounter from Tailfeathers's own life, the film unspools in real time (it shares with Never Steady the talented cinematographer Norm Li), offering a meditation on domestic violence, the foster care system and the tendrils of enduring colonialism. OK, so maybe it's not exactly cheery stuff — but if Never Steady is any indication, it promises a tough story told with sensitivity and heart. (I'd also be remiss if I didn't plug This Ink Runs Deep, a lyrical CBC Arts short doc about the renaissance in Indigenous tattoo practices across this country directed by the emerging director Asia Youngman. Catch it as part of Short Cuts Programme 2.)

—Andrew D'Cruz, executive producer

How to Build a Girl

(Courtesy of TIFF)

I'm here for anything starring Beanie Feldstein, and no shocker there. Given the raves over her last two coming-of-age flicks, Lady Bird and Booksmart, she's got a lock on playing smart and goofy dorks who have an endearingly sweet emotional core. This time out, Feldstein stars as a working-class kid in '90s London, a Julie Andrews and Jane Eyre-loving keener who re-invents herself as a snark peddler for a music rag. (Should I be hitting someone in Hollywood up for royalties? That's my life, dammit — minus a few circumstantial bits about time and place.) But the movie's based on Caitlin Moran's probably-more-than-semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, so lucky you, the movie won't end with Beanie settling into a desk job with a Canadian public broadcaster. Instead, she'll wrestle with her new identity and the cost of playing cool, presumably over an excellent Britpop soundtrack (another reason I'm getting tickets). Emma Thompson, Chris O'Dowd and Alfie Allen also star.

—Leah Collins, senior writer

The Lighthouse

Maybe most of us can't relate to the life of a colonial-era lighthouse keeper. But bad roommates? That sh*t's universal. And in The Lighthouse, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson promise to take their toxic dynamic to the realm of all-out madness. From Robert Eggers (the same filmmaker behind The Witch, another ye olde New England horror story that found acclaim at TIFF), The Lighthouse earned raves at Cannes this spring, reviews packed with these kinds of tasty keywords: "ferocious acting," "explosively scary and captivatingly beautiful," "high-on-helium-style comedy." I'm in.

—Leah Collins, senior writer


I'm already a fan of Korean director Bong Joon-Ho for his ability to hook me early and keep me there every second (see: The Host, Snowpiercer). Also, just his moooods (Okja plus the aforementioned movies). Considering his reputation (plus what I've seen in the trailer), Parasite is going to be a wild ride. But it's also not at all what you think it is. On its surface, it seems to be about a duo that tries to become employees to a very wealthy family by being less than honest about their identities. It looks endearing and tense and entirely bonkers. I'm sold. If you know me, I'm sure you'll be hearing way too much about Parasite in the coming weeks.

—Lise Hosein, producer


Writer and director Joko Anwar's film Gundala tops my list this year. The movie re-imagines an Indonesian superhero to fit modern times and apparently opens the door for a suite of movies in the same universe. I always look forward to comic-book adaptations and I'm excited to dive into a whole set of stories I know nothing about. It's hard to turn down an adventure about "the orphaned son of defiant labour unionists" shooting lightning at bad guys. The promise of "thousands of orphan assassins" also intrigues me. Do you think they turn away non-orphans? Either way, that's a lot of dead parents.

—Justin Chandler, digital producer

Just Mercy

(Courtesy of TIFF)

Just Mercy intrigues me because it's a film about justice and redemption. And in today's political climate, this story is very relevant and powerful. Set in the late '80s, it follows a young lawyer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), and his history-making battle for justice. He returns to the southern United States to help prisoners in Alabama and takes the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx). McMillian is sentenced to murder and faces death row, despite evidence proving his innocence. One thing that I enjoy about movies based on real events is how they educate and inform, and I believe this film has the power to do so.

—Kiah Welsh, digital producer

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

(Courtesy of TIFF)

French filmmaker Céline Sciamma has been making exceptional work for over a decade, including queer cinema standouts such as 2007's Water Lilies and 2011's Tomboy. But it seems her latest, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, is elevating her to a whole new status on the world stage. After debuting in Cannes to universal raves (and winning the Queer Palm for best LGBTQ film, making Sciamma the first woman to do so), the film makes its way to Toronto so we can all witness the 1770s-set love story between painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her muse Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). One review already called it "a study of forbidden love that grandly highlights how much has been lost under the crush of hetero patriarchy" and I couldn't be more down for just that.

—Peter Knegt, producer

No. 7 Cherry Lane

I'm most looking forward to seeing No.7 Cherry Lane, a film that acclaimed Chinese director Yonfan calls both his "love letter to Hong Kong" and "a film of liberation." Set in the late '60s, a period when the city was rife with political demonstrations and confrontations, it feels particularly timely. I'm also intrigued by the film's focus on the everyday things that "liberate" us: the movies we watch, the books we read, our romantic relationships. But I have to admit that as a fan of animated films, I'm mostly drawn in by the innovative artwork. Moody backgrounds depicting Hong Kong's storefronts, hills and side streets are rendered to look like paintings on rice paper, while the characters are drawn in a crisp, more modern style. The result is totally unique from the artful animation we've seen from, say, Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai — but no less beautiful or immersive. I can't wait to dive into Yonfan's world (and later, speaking of Shinkai, maybe catch a screening of the much-talked-about Weathering With You).  

—Reiko Milley, senior copy editor