Summer blockbuster season’s over and the battle for awards nominations has begun. As usual, the Venice Film Festival kicked off the season with a 79th edition that delivered audiences films from some of the best directors and biggest stars.

While gossip surrounding Don’t Worry Darling took up most of the headlines, the Italian film festival also showcased real awards contenders in Cate Blanchett, Brendan Fraser, and Timothée Chalamet.

Here are my 10 highlights from Venice Film Festival 2022…

The Whale

Brendan Fraser’s making a comeback thanks to his universally praised lead performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. He’s a sure-fire Academy Award nomination for his role as a man suffering from crippling obesity and confined to his flat, and desperate to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter (Stranger Things’ Sade Sink).

With Fraser wearing a 300lbs fat suit, The Whale has been criticised for “fat shaming,” and opened up discussion about the topic of weight and the use of such fat suits in cinema. This drama is sure to be the polarising movie of awards season, with some critics praising the father-daughter relationship whilst others believing it would be nothing without the acclaimed performances from Sink and Fraser.

The Whale will be released in the US on 9 December 2022. There is currently no current UK release.

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Bones and All

Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) reunites with Timothée Chalamet in a cannibal love story set against the backdrop of the America Midwest. Taylor Russell (the breakout star from Waves) plays Maren, a so-called ‘eater’ abandoned by her father who sets out to rekindle a relationship with her estranged mother. On the way, she meets Lee (Chalamet), a fellow eater, and romance ensues. Both are disenfranchised drifters, embarking on an odyssey through the backroads of the US. Despite the blood and guts, Bones and All continues Guadagnino’s investigation into love as an outsider.

Taylor Russell picked up the best young actress award for her performance as a drifter and sometimes cannibal in the adaptation of the 2015 Camille DeAngelis novel. Guadagnino also won the Silver Lion for ‘Best Director’.

Bones and All is scheduled to be released globally on 23 November 2022.

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White Noise

Noah Baumbach opened Venice Film Festival with the highly stylised White Noise, which he adapted from the 1985 postmodern novel by Don DeLillo. Once described as an unfilmable novel, White Noise is a deadpan comedy about catastrophe, the discontentment of the Western middle classes, and the anxiety of intellectuality.

White Noise follows Adam Driver (Marriage Story) as a college professor of Hitler Studies with Greta Gerwig playing his wife; a couple confronted by an airborne toxic event of frightening and unknowable proportions that disrupts the lives of their whole family.

The film also co-stars Jodie Turner-Smith, Don Cheadle, and Andre Benjamin. Although it tepidly received only a 150-second standing ovation at the festival, i’s been positively received as a thrillingly original black comedy.

White Noise will be released in selected cinemas on 25 November 2022, it will then arrive on Netflix on 30 December 2022.

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The Banshees of Inisherin

After directing Frances McDormand to an Academy Award win with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), director Martin McDonagh returns with a low-key drama set in the 1920s. Taking place on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland, there’s a civil war unfolding on the mainland but Colin Farrell’s Pádraic has his own issues: his long-time friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) has, almost overnight, decided he no longer wants to have a relationship with him, leading Pádraic to wonder about the merits of friendship and how easily relationships fall apart. Barry Keoughan and Kerry Condon co-star.

The director has described The Banshees of Inisherin as an “odder and weirder,” version of In Bruges (2008). Farrell took home the festival’s ‘Best Actor’ prize and when premiered at the festival, the film received a 15-minute standing ovation from the audience—the longest of this year’s festival.

The Banshees of Inisherin will be released on 21 October 2022.

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Academy Award-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant) brought his visually stunning epic Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths to the festival. The film tells the story of Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a celebrated Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker who, after winning an international award, returns to his native country after 20 successful years in Los Angeles to reconnect with friends and family and ponder his past. Bardo brings up many biographical questions about fame and success, especially when it forces you to leave behind your home country.

Bardo appears to be a rare miss for Iñárritu, however, having divided critics. Many felt it was overly self-indulgent whilst others said it walked the line of brilliance and demandingly personal.

Bardo is expected to be released on Netflix at the end of the year.

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The Eternal Daughter

Joanna Hogg follows up semi-biographical The Souvenir and The Souvenir: Part II (2021), with this contemplative ghost story starring the director’s long-term friend Tilda Swinton as a woman taking her elderly mother (also played by Swinton) on vacation. But this holiday is less than jovial, as the vacation to the old manor hotel becomes marred with melancholy and family secrets.

Set in the same universe as The Souvenir, this spooky story uses Gothic horror tropes to portray a woman trying to find her own ghost. As meta and cerebral as Hogg’s earlier work, this Hitchcockian film is about absences and how so many things we take for granted can easily be snatched away.

There is currently no UK release date for The Eternal Daughter.

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Only Todd Field’s third film, and his first since Little Children (2006), TAR looks set to give Cate Blanchett her eighth Academy Award nomination and possibly her third win. The Australian actress plays acclaimed composer and conductor Lydia Tár, who lives in Berlin with her partner and young daughter and is the first woman to be the lead conductor of a major German orchestra.

On the surface Tár has everything life can offer but she’s hiding a dark secret. The film follows the mysterious composer and the menacing secrets in both her personal and private life. Critics have praised how the film never becomes sympathetic as it follows Tár from the peak of her creative and career powers into a harrowing unravelling amongst a sea of #MeToo allegations.

TÁR received a six-minute standing ovation following its premiere at the festival and there has been universal praise for Blanchett’s performance. We expect it to hit UK cinemas early next year.

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Master Gardener      

Paul Schrader completes his ‘God’s Lonely Man’ trilogy (First Reformed and The Card Counter) with Master Gardener. Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) is a horticulturist with a troubled past who maintains the grounds of a wealthy dowager, Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver).

When Haverhill’s mixed-race niece, Maya (Quintessa Swindell), comes to stay with her aunt, she starts working as Roth’s apprentice. Maya’s an orphaned drug addict whom Norma accepts when no one will but begins to bond with Roth over their troubled past. Schrader, once again, deals with the complexities of modern masculinity

Critics were sadly a little disappointed in this screenplay from Schrader (who famously wrote Taxi Driver), calling it naïve and simplistic.

Master Gardener currently has no UK release date.

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Blue Jean

Georgia Oakley’s mighty debut Blue Jean is a modest drama looking at the north of England during the Thatcher era. The film tells the story of Jean, a lesbian P.E. teacher trying to hide her sexual identity during the implementation of Section 28, while a teenage girl in her class is clearly struggling in the same way, both battling a law that banned the promotion of same-sex practices in school.

The frank debut from Oakley evokes the politically charged climate without relegating it to the history books. The topic is still incredibly relevant, with Thatcher’s sentiments living among the British establishment and Florida’s recent ‘Don’t Say Gay’. While some wished it had gone farther, the piercing preciseness leaves too much unsaid for our current political climate.

This deeply personal tale set against a Newcastle backdrop currently has no release date.

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Argentina, 1985

Santiago Mitre’s courtroom drama is based on real-life events in Argentina 1985. Public prosecutors Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darín) and Luis Moreno Ocampo (Juan Pedro Lanzani) formed a legal team who put Argentina’s military on trial for the “dirty war” which led to the death of dissidents, and the two young lawyers start to invite the wrath of the influential military.    

The 1985 junta trial was the biggest event since Nuremberg, even though there were no ‘only-following-orders’ arguments as they were the ones giving the orders. Nine leading military personnel were put in the dock for human rights abuses. Mitre’s film lets the unspoken anger at the military’s refusal to recognise the authority of a civilian court hover.

Argentina 1985 has been universally praised, even if the need to Hollywoodify the plot has been met with raised brows. Following a limited theatrical release, the film will air on Amazon Prime on 21 October 2022.