Based on the novel by Ann Patchett – loosely based on the 1996 Peruvian Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis – Bel Canto is an unusual love story that follows opera star Roxane Cross (Julianne Moore) who travels to an unnamed country in South America to perform at a private concert for Katsumi Hosokawa (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese industrialist looking for an economical place in the continent to build a factory. In the midst of this display of wealth, extravagance, and cultural imagery, the gathering is interrupted by a rebel group who mistakenly believe that the president of the nation is at the party. What ensues is a month-long standoff between the group and the hostages, as the group demands the release of their imprisoned comrades.
Once again, Keira Knightley is out there giving a powerhouse performance in period clothes, but this time, she replaces the corset with a dapper suit. And Colette may just be her best performance yet. Knightley plays Sidonie–Gabrielle Colette, one of the most celebrated French novelists of all time. But her famous Claudine novels were never always her own. As a woman, she was forced to hide behind her novelist husband’s name and watch him get all the glory for her work. But, as the film shows, she fights back – for her work, and for her name.
Colette is a badass that has slipped the minds of many, but Wash Westmoreland’s film, despite taking place in the late 19th-early 20th century, is timely, as women are still fighting her fight. Fighting for equality, a voice, and the right to be individual. Many of Knightley’s past characters have worn the accessory of asphyxiation, but right out of the gate, Colette’s refusal to conform to the traditional female dress of Belle Époque high society is just one of the indications that the audience is in for a “We can do it!” kind of narrative.
Colette follows the period in the writer’s life when she was married to writer Henry “Willy” Gauthier-Villars. We see the sexual drama of their marriage and Willy’s newfound success as a writer after he asks Colette to write a series of books based on her school days. The Claudine novels became an almost overnight success, transforming into a national brand with young women lining up for the latest in Claudine dresses, beauty products, cigarettes – you name it, they had it. While keeping inside her talent from the world, she flourishes outward in this story of identity.
Akash Sherman’s second feature film, Clara, premiered at TIFF this year, defining him as a Canadian filmmaker to watch. At just 23-years-old, he has created a unique addition to the sci-fi drama. Starring husband and wife duo, Suits’ Patrick J. Adams and Pretty Little Liars’ Troian Bellisario, the film follows astronomer, Isaac Bruno, and his under-qualified, but eager research assistant, Clara, as they go on a search for life beyond earth. While on their search of the cosmos, they also develop something cosmic within themselves.
Suburban noir has become a big draw for book and film lovers alike. Ever since Amy Dunne declared “I’m so much happier now that I’m dead,” few have tried and failed to recreate Gone Girl’s genius. Comedy god Paul Feig’s newest film is irresistible, but misses some steps on its way up to Gone Girl-level brilliance.
A Simple Favor follows the dark relationship between mom opposites Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and Emily (Blake Lively). Stephanie, the single mommy vlogger, is quickly seduced by Emily’s rich lifestyle – in all her martini drinking, ’30s Marlene Dietrich glamour. When Emily disappears, Stephanie attempts to get to the bottom of what happened to her best friend – and whether Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) had anything to do with it.
James Wan’s Conjuring films have been revered for their ability to balance in-depth storytelling with the right amount of scares. The franchise’s universe is continuing to grow, but with the release of The Nun, it’s a wonder if the new installments will be able to live up to the true stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren. With James Wan’s writing credit, it’s surprising that The Nun turns out to be just another generic horror flick. It had the potential to be something more, but the film lacked the authentic storytelling that makes The Conjuring series so good. Instead, it’s just another film of the genre that tries too hard, does too much to make the audience jump, and follows the typical tropes of white people deciding it’s a good idea to split up and go towards the mysterious voice calling them in the dark.
Premiering on Amazon Video in November, Homecoming is a psychological thriller based on the podcast of the same name by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg. The podcast is a magnet of Hollywood talent, boasting big names like Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, David Cross, and Amy Sedaris. Scripted podcasts were once prime radio entertainment, but fell out of popularity with the rise of television in the 1950s. Taking inspiration from the 1943 radio play “Sorry, Wrong Number”, Horowitz and Bloomberg bring back this style of entertainment, creating an HBO worthy series in podcast form. This slow-burning, star-studded thriller was developed for the small screen by Sam Esmail, and stars Julia Roberts in her first full-length television role.
The show’s premiere episode shifts between secret government facility Julia Roberts and Fat Morgan waitress Julia Roberts. Her character, Heidi Bergman, it is revealed, once worked at a facility called the Homecoming Transitional Support Centre, but has since quit. The past she has tried to escape catches up with her when she waits on Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham) who works for the Department of Defence. He’s following up on allegations and complaints about the facility and the treatment of the soldiers living there, as questions arise about whether or not they were there voluntarily or held against their will.
Unlike this summer, female representation behind the camera is being overshadowed this fall by the Ruben Fleischers, Damien Chazelles, and Bryan Singers. While you can’t expect many women-helmed movies at your local theatre, they’ll be making lots of noise on the festival circuit. Along with a description of the theatrical releases to look out for, this piece compiles a list of the female-directed feature films screening at major film festivals. Listing every film at every fall festival would make for an article as long as Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, so we trust our readers will be on the lookout for women filmmakers at their local festivals, as well as documentary and short films directed by women. All film descriptions are from press materials and all theatrical release dates are for the United States.
September 21 – NAPPILY EVER AFTER dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour
Violet has it all: the perfect job, the perfect relationship and the perfect hair. Until an accident at her hair salon makes her realize she’s not living life to the fullest. This romantic comedy, starring Sanaa Lathan, is based on the novel of the same name by Trisha R. Thomas
September 28 – LITTLE WOMEN dir. Clare Niederpruem
A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel follows the lives of the same sisters we know so well — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March — and detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, and as they mature, they face blossoming ambitions, relationships, and tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond.