ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer and Erin Whitney are back from the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. You can read all of their coverage so far here, but if you want the digest version, they compiled this list of some of the fest’s highlights: the best performances, the biggest surprises, and the worst disappointments. What are the movies people are going to be talking about this fall? These. (Except the ones they didn’t like, of course.)

Best Actor
Joel Edgerton, Loving

Loving Joel Edgerton

Joel Edgerton is the type of actor who always does great supporting work, but hasn’t had many strong leading roles. With Loving, Jeff Nichols finally gives Edgerton a main character worthy of his talents. Edgerton portrays Richard Loving, whose interracial marriage to Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga) led to the 1967 Supreme Court case that overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. It’s an emotional story that could easily result in melodramatic performances, but Edgerton plays Richard with a quiet gentleness. He’s a simple man who only wants to be left alone with his wife and family, not the audacious, heroic type who gives rousing speeches or breaks down in hysterics. And that’s why there’s no typical Oscar nomination scene in Loving. Edgerton gives a delicate performance ripe with sensitivity, channeling his character’s muted frustration through his physicality more than his words. You see it in his tightened jaw, hunched shoulders, and contemplative glances. Edgerton has always been good, but here he’s great. — Erin Whitney

Best Actress
Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper Kristen Stewart
IFC Films

Kristen Stewart became the first American actress to win a César Award, the French equivalent of an Oscar, for her last collaboration with director Olivier Assayas, 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria. She’s arguably even better in Assayas’ new film, Personal Shopper, a fascinating character study and horror film about a young American woman in Paris on a desperate search for some kind of proof that her recently deceased twin brother still lingers in our world as a ghost. In Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart shared most of her scenes with Juliette Binoche; in Personal Shopper, her most frequent scene partner is an iPhone, as she carries on long iMessage conversations with a stranger who might be a spirit from beyond the grave, or something even more sinister. Stewart carries these scenes, and basically the entire film, entirely on her own. She was the butt of a lot of jokes during her Twilight days. With each new movie, she proves the naysayers more and more wrong. — Matt Singer

Breakout Performance
Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight


He’s made uncredited appearances in films like Open Windows and played a recurring role on Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong. But for a lot of viewers, Moonlight will be the first time they see Trevante Rhodes onscreen. It surely won’t be the last. Rhodes stars in the third and richest section of this coming-of-age story about a young black man from Miami. In the first two portions, two other gifted actors play Chiron, a fatherless boy navigating a world where his shy demeanor and his burgeoning homosexuality makes him a target for bullies. Rhodes’ Chiron, nicknamed Black, is a man transformed; hardened by bad luck and necessity from a sweet, lanky teenager into an intense, muscle-bound drug dealer. But when an old flame named Kevin (André Holland) comes back into Black’s life, Rhodes’ face instantly shifts from anger to longing. Tiny cracks begins to appear in Chiron’s carefully constructed defenses. It’s an incredible performance, perfectly pitched between toughness and warmth, paying off all the emotional suspense built in the first two thirds of Barry Jenkins’ remarkable film about black identity and gay life in America. — MS

Best Director
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Barry Jenkins
Getty Images

There isn’t a single moment of Berry Jenkins’ Moonlight that feels off. Every shot, each angle, feels a part of a fully realized vision. A cinematic triptych, the film tells the story of a boy growing into an adult as he seeks to understand his sexuality and identity as a young black man. Jenkins is so intimately engaged with his main character Chiron that he makes three distinct performances feel both uniquely separate and emotionally intertwined. There’s a visceral rawness and clarity in his imagery that’s rich with sadness and breathtaking in its mournful beauty. He shifts between shots that watch and follow his main character from a distance to ones that confronts us head-on. In the film’s most upsetting moments of aggression, the camera looks straight into the actors’ eyes, attempting to pull out what’s stifled within. And in what is one of the most powerful, poignant scenes this year, Jenkins films a romantic encounter with a series of close-ups that capture a nervousness and a need you can almost taste. Jenkins brings a passionate fragility to Moonlight that feels so alive you can’t help but ache and cry along with his characters. He’s a talent we all should be anxious to see more from. — EW

Biggest Disappointment
Voyage of Time

Voyage of Time
Broad Green

Let me start off by saying Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, a 90-minute documentary narrated by Cate Blanchett, is by no means a bad film. I admire a lot about it and recommend seeing it on the big screen. But it was also the most underwhelming of the 15 movies I saw at TIFF, and felt like the most uncertain work of Malick’s career. A mix of CGI, nature photography, and handheld digital video, the film recounts the origins of existence from the Big Bang to our modern world of skyscrapers, all while Blanchett’s voiceover directs unanswered questions to Mother Nature. It’s ponderous and repetitive in a way that echoes the cycles of nature and spirituality at the film’s center, but it just doesn’t work as a feature-length film (the shorter IMAX version narrated by Brad Pitt, which I haven’t seen, might work better). The Tree of Life, which uses footage from Voyage of Time, is a perfect example of how the ideas in this movie are most effective when surrounded by a narrative. Life’s Journey strips the human element from its very human questions. It’s certainly a wonder to look at, but as much as I wanted to love this film I just couldn’t connect to it. — EW

Best Score
La La Land


There’s only one problem with the soundtrack to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land: It’s not currently available to purchase or stream. You can buy one song, the lovely Ryan Gosling ballad “City of Stars,” but for the rest, we’ll have to wait until closer to the film’s release in early December. Which is Grade-A baloney. How can I be expected to wait so long to hear to these great songs by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul again? That’s just not fair. Tracks like “A Lovely Night,” “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” and “Another Day of Sun,” blend pop, jazz, and show tunes, perfectly evoking the classic musicals of old. If you need me until December, I’ll be over here, endlessly rewatching the movie’s trailers so I can hear the music again. — MS

One Guaranteed Oscar Nominee
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Fox Searchlight
Fox Searchlight

If there’s one performance I can’t get out of my head from Toronto, it’s Natalie Portman’s turn as Jackie Kennedy. She captures the manicured persona of the historical icon only to then lose all control in a dizzying display of vulnerability. Portman shows us three sides of the former First Lady in Pablo Larrain’s Jackie. First we meet a sharp and self-aware Mrs. Kennedy being interviewed by a reporter the week following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Then we see flashbacks of recreated footage of her famous White House tour television special full of forced smiles, and in the film’s most penetrating moments, Portman shows a fraught Jackie in the hours and days following the assassination. The actress creates such an intimate, distressing portrait of a woman America loved but never got to know, portraying a complex intersection of heartbreak, rage, and loss. While Larrain’s atypical approach to the biopic is likely far too weird and abstract to be a Best Picture contender, Portman’s tour-de-force will certainly get the Academy’s attention. It’s her best work since Black Swan, and I wouldn’t complain if it got Portman a second gold statue. — EW

Best Under-the-Radar Discovery 


With a tawdry high-concept premise — pregnant lady revenge flick — Prevenge sounds like a classic exploitation film. But this psychological horror movie has a lot more going for it than cheap thrills and an undeniably outstanding title. The movie was written and directed by its star, Alice Lowe (Sightseers), who was seven months pregnant at the time of shooting. There’s plenty of gory violence in Prevenge, but its more interesting elements are the allegorical ones that use this pregnant woman’s kill spree to explore the anxieties that come with creating new life. I obviously haven’t carried a baby, but I lived with someone who did less than a year ago, and I witnessed a lot of the same fears I see reflected in Lowe’s film (albeit with a lot less impalement by apartment knickknacks). They call it “the miracle of life.” But some miracles are genuinely terrifying. MS

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