venice toronto grid

Source: Warner Bros / Arclight Films / Wild Bunch / Neon

‘A Star Is Born’, ‘Hotel Mumbai’, ‘High Life’, ‘Wild Rose’

Screen International’s critics pick the films – from studio Oscar contenders to arthouse gems – that stood out at Venice and Toronto this year. 

Studio hits and Oscar hopefuls

The Favourite

Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Our critic said:The Favourite is one of those rare films where the energy generated by three talents at the top of their game and the energy generated by their characters swirl and merge in a perfect storm.” Read our review

A Star Is Born

Dir. Bradley Cooper
Our critic said: “Taken on its own terms as an unashamedly anachronistic attempt to muster the emotional intensity of the Hollywood melodrama tradition, Cooper’s film must be at least grudgingly acknowledged as a success.” Read our review

First Man

Dir. Damien Chazelle
Our critic said: “It’s a beautifully made film, with an impeccable lead performance from Ryan Gosling as the sober, sensitive astronaut.” Read our review


Dir. Steve McQueen
Our critic said: “McQueen is also, clearly, using his considerable powers as a director and a dramatist to deliver a heist film which has the patience and layered air of classic 70s dramas.Read our review


Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Our critic said: “Directing, writing and shooting this film, Cuarón has spurred himself to a glorious technical achievement: watching ROMA is like reading his autobiography; the intense flow of family life punctuated by hundreds of intimate little details for the viewer to savour.” Read our review

Commercial potential

green book c tiff 2

Source: Courtesy of TIFF

‘Green Book’

Green Book

Dir. Peter Farrelly
Our critic said:Green Book’s pedestrian, heartfelt brand of inspirational storytelling could make the film a sizable hit with audiences hungry for a crowd-pleaser.” Read our review

The Old Man & The Gun

Dir. David Lowery
Our critic said: “Writer-director David Lowery reteams with his Pete’s Dragon star Robert Redford for this meditative and thought-provoking look at mortality, commitment and people’s penchant for chasing something they might never catch.” Read our review

Ben Is Back

Dir. Peter Hedges
Our critic said: “Julia Roberts blasts through this family reunion drama-turned-thriller with one of the most forceful performances of her career.” Read our review

Deal-makers: The films that scored fast US deals 

greta c tiff 3

Source: Courtesy of TIFF


Vox Lux

Dir. Brady Corbet
Our critic said: “With original songs by chart-conquering songwriter Sia and a dazzlingly witty, forceful lead from Portman, Vox Lux should sell well wherever there’s an appetite for auteur innovation.” Read our review

Wild Rose

Dir. Tom Harper
Our critic said: “If a star was born with Jessie Buckley in Beast, then Wild Rose marks her ascendency.” Read our review


Dir. Neil Jordan
Our critic said: “A stupendously game Isabelle Huppert gives audiences yet another reason to venerate her as she raises arched eyebrows to new heights in this silly, funny, camp pulp thriller co-written by Neil Jordan and Ray Wright (The Crazies).” Read our review

The Biggest Little Farm

Dir. John Chester
Our critic said: “The novelty of the subject matter - reviving an abandoned farm in Los Angeles - should ensure the film a long festival ride after exposure at Telluride and Toronto, with those events focused on environmental programming having particular interest.” Read our review

The Hummingbird Project

Dir. Kim Nguyen
Our critic said: “The movie will benefit from the star power of Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård, not to mention a villainous turn from Salma Hayek.” Read our review


Dir. Zach Lipovsky & Adam B. Stein
Our critic said:Freaks is an oddity — a supernatural drama that cannibalizes plenty of well-worn genre elements while trying to say something impassioned about childhood, trauma, abandonment and grief.” Read our review


Dir. Pella Kågerman, Hugo Lilja
Our critic said: “Swedish existential dread in outer space, with a suicidal AI, ritualistic orgies and a giant galactic shopping mall: this striking first feature from Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja is a work of daunting ambition.” Read our review

The Third Wife

Dir. Ash Mayfair
Our critic said: “Telling the story of a young girl who enters an arranged marriage to a landowner, The Third Wife echoes the ravishing art-house triumphs of Tran Anh Hung, who serves here as an ‘artistic advisor’, while his wife and frequent collaborator Tran Nu Yen Khe plays one of the principal roles.” Read our review

Teen Spirit

Dir. Max Minghella
Our critic said: “What it has in its favour is the potential to appeal to younger audiences, both in its choice of actor – Fanning is genuinely appealing – and in the familiarity of the singing competition backdrop.” Read our review


the sisters brothers c annapurna pictures

Source: Annapurna Pictures

‘The Sisters Brothers’

The Sisters Brothers

Dir. Jacques Audiard
Our critic said: “The Palme d’Or-winning filmmaker’s first movie in English is a meandering, meditative affair, but it’s a journey well worth taking as Audiard once again studies how people make peace with their environment and circumstance.” Read our review

Papi Chulo

Dir. John Butler
Our critic said: “In its unassuming way, the film captures something universal and profound: the fleeting human connections which can subtly change a life forever” Read our review

Hotel Mumbai

Dir. Anthony Maras
Our critic said: “Primarily focusing on events at and surrounding the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, writer/director Anthony Maras largely sticks to the dramatisation playbook, but does so in an effective, affecting and empathetic fashion.” Read our review


Dir. Zhang Yimou
Our critic said: “After the disappointing martial-monster mash-up of The Great Wall, this represents a return to the majesty and emotional finesse of Hero and House Of Flying Daggers.” Read our review

Under the radar: Arthouse sleepers

the crossing c tiff 2

Source: Courtesy of TIFF

‘The Crossing’

The Crossing

Dir. Bai Xue
Our critic said: “The story of a teenage girl crossing physical borders and moral boundaries feels fresh and engaging and should gain wider festival exposure following its Toronto world premiere.” Read our review


Dir. Pema Tseden
Our critic said: “Tibetan road movie Jinpa is a playful, gently perplexing and distinctly stylish fifth feature from director Pema Tseden.” Read our review

School’s Out

Dir. Sebastien Marnier
Our critic said: “Marnier’s second feature, loosely based on a 2002 novel by Christophe Dufossé, borrows stylistic devices from horror to create an atmosphere of suffocating paranoia.” Read our review

Real Love

Dir. Claire Burger
Our critic said: “Following 2014’s Caméra d’Or-winning Party Girl, which she co-directed, Claire Burger’s first feature as sole writer/director is a beautifully-wrought, refreshingly understated study of love and parenting, dependence and independence as experienced by a working family caught in the throes of the parents’ separation.” Read our review


Dir. Mikhaël Hers
Our critic said: “Immensely touching in the way it bridges minor-key sketchiness and full-on contemplation of the human condition… A modest but significant breakthrough.” Read our review


Dir. Markus Schleinzer
Our critic said: “Markus Schleinzer’s supremely assured second feature is, in its own way, as profoundly uncomfortable as his 2011 debut, Michael.Read our review

In Fabric

Dir. Peter Strickland
Our critic said: “A perverse (and often perversely funny) genre film, it’s sure to do well in similar festival berths.” Read our review 

Mother’s Instinct

Dir. Olivier Masset-Depasse
Our critic said: “Fans of photogenic female treachery and mid-century interiors will appreciate the attention to detail in both the choice of soft furnishings and the elegantly manicured malice.” Read our review

Divisive: love-hate

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Source: Amazon Studios


High Life

Dir. Claire Denis
Our critic said: “Claire Denis’s first foray into science-fiction is, inevitably, more Solaris than Star Wars.Read our review

Her Smell

Dir. Alex Ross Perry
Our critic said: “Wildly uneven, sporadically brilliant, occasionally unbearable, Alex Ross Perry’s sprawling portrait of a self-destructive rock star is carried by a performance by Elisabeth Moss which is turned all the way up to eleven, and beyond.” Read our review

The Nightingale

Dir. Jennifer Kent
Our critic said: “In the #MeToo age, the film is likely to strike a chord with woke cult-attuned audiences in the same way as Coralie Fargeat’s recent Revenge, and it won’t do Kent’s reputation any harm as a rising auteur name.” Read our review

Our Time

Dir. Carlos Reygadas
Our critic said: “A film of considerable visual poetry and, at times, grandeur, Our Time is unmistakably the work of the ambitious, visionary director behind Battle In Heaven and Stellet Licht.Read our review

At Eternity’s Gate

Dir. Julian Schnabel
Our critic said: “The trifecta of Schnabel, Dafoe and the tragic Dutch dauber should bring moderate art-house prestige, and perhaps awards for its star.” Read our review


Dir. Luca Guadagnino
Our critic said: “A sensuous experience designed to provoke — whether it be rapture, outrage or eye-rolls — Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria is a feast of excess, carrying with it all that’s both enticing and frustrating about such a strategy.” Read our review