The fall movie season is here. While we won’t be doing our typically massive preview of the four months ahead considering how in flux the release calendar has been (in fact, one of our most-anticipated of the month, Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness, was just delayed again, this time to 2021), we’ll still be sharing monthly overviews of the top films to see. While September brings, Venice, TIFF, and NYFF (follow our coverage here), there’s a strong lineup of new releases as well, a handful of which are coming only to theaters––a rare sight these past six months.

10. Tenet (Christopher Nolan: Sept. 3)

Although it already starting rolling out in the United States, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will officially land in more theaters starting this Labor Day weekend. While the hype unfortunately doesn’t seem to be justified, for those still curious about the spectacle, the director seems to have delivered on that front. Hanna Flint said in our review, “No line in recent cinematic history has felt more fourth-wall-breaking than the one uttered by Clémence Poésy’s character in the first act of Tenet. “Don’t try to understand it,” her scientist character tells John David Washington’s Protagonist as he comes to grips with a new type of radioactive weapon. “Feel it.” It’s certainly the best advice to offer cinema-goers before watching Christopher Nolan’s latest, an espionage thriller of blockbuster proportions. But with two-and-a-half hours of physics-heavy exposition doled-out between sprawling, globe-spanning action sequences, Poésy’s advice is not always that easy to follow.”

Where to Watch: In Theaters

9. Sibyl (Justine Triet; Sept. 11)

Francophiles who are still missing the void that the cancellation of Cannes left, a selection from last year’s edition of the fest is arriving this month. Led by Virginie Efira as a therapist who begins a relationship with a troubled actress (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Sibly also stars Saint Laurent’s Gaspard Ulliel and Toni Erdmann’s Sandra Huller. Ed Frankl said in our Cannes review, “This is the third film from director Justine Triet, whose last feature In Bed with Victoria, while markedly more comic in tone, also featured a headstrong, successful woman dealing with a complicated personal life. It’s clearly something Triet prioritizes, and she gets strong performances from her two female leads, especially Efira, whose character’s poise and confidence slowly breaks down as she loses grip of her personal and professional responsibilities.”

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas

8. The Mole Agent (Maite Alberdi; Sept. 1)

A one-of-a-kind detective story, The Mole Agent follows an 83-year-old man who poses as a resident in a Chilean nursing home to explore the life and treatment of a resident at the request of her family.. Matt Cipolla said in our review, “The film zips through the setup and logistics at such a blink-and-you-miss-it speed that it’s more pretext than anything else, and that’s largely because of how it approaches the content. Yes, it’s a documentary, but to what extent it’s all real isn’t completely clear. Even Alberdi’s camera is so aware of itself that it refuses to feel real at times. Then as The Mole Agent goes on, its intentions clear up. It’s authentic at its core. For Sergio, who’s homebound in just three months, it’s as much of a social caricature. It’s when he gets to know the residents that the journey sheds its skin.”

Where to Watch: VOD

7. The Devil All the Time (Antonio Campos; Sept. 16)

Simon Killer, Afterschool, and Christine director Antonio Campos is back with his most ambitious project yet, the gothic drama The Devil All the Time. Featuring the stacked cast of Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Harry Melling, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson, we’re looking forward to seeing the director up his scope in this Southern Gothic tale. Landing on Netflix this month, we imagine the film would have gotten a birth at TIFF in any normal year, but with the platform skipping festivals, we’re eager to see it kick off the fall season.

Where to Watch: Netflix

6. Cuties (Maïmouna Doucouré; Sept. 9)

On a festival tour that included Sundance, Berlin, and more this year, Maïmouna Doucouré’s directorial debut Cuties has been praised without stirring up much controversy whatsoever. However, when Netflix’s marketing recently decided to present a surface-level approach on the very thing the film is dissecting–––the hypersexualization of preadolescent girls in today’s culture––there was rightfully much backlash. After an apology from the company, the French-Senegalese director’s film will now arrive on the platform where audiences can judge it for themselves. Following an eleven-year-old girl from Senegal who arrives in Paris with her family, it follows her grappling with a new set of customs as she finds a group of friends.

Where to Watch: Netflix

5. Space Dogs (Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter; Sept. 11)

Inspired by Laika, a stray dog picked up by the Soviet space program on the streets of Moscow, who became the first living being to orbit the earth when she was launched into space on Sputnik 2, Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter’s latest work is a truly bold, unique take on the tale. Her memory and legacy is the basis for the journey, imagining if this Moscow street dog had become a ghost. Featuring a mix of on-the-ground footage in modern Moscow as to replicate a dog’s point of view as well as archival footage of the Soviet space program, the film looks like a singular journey into a unique world, as if Andrei Tarkovsky directed Homeward Bound.

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas

4. Feels Good Man (Arthur Jones; Sept. 4)

A small, harmless frog peacefully existing by the water is the first image presented in Feels Good Man. What follows from that serene moment––a nod to the source of innocent inspiration for Pepe the Frog––is a clear-eyed, disturbing look at how the playful creation was perverted and carried through a malevolent maelstrom of digital discourse in the darkest corners of the internet. Arthur Jones’ documentary stays sharply focused on the specific path in which Pepe the Frog eventually became classified as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, but he also paints a larger, more terrifying picture of how an anonymous population wields the power to shift political change from their keyboards and the juvenile motivation in which their flimsy ideology is founded upon.

Where to Watch: VOD

3. The Nest (Sean Durkin; Sept. 18)

Finally returning to feature filmmaking after his striking 2011 debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sean Durkin is back with The Nest. Led by Jude Law and Carrie Coon, it’s a gorgeously-shot exploration of how wealth deteriorates the soul, specifically following a family who moves back to England after living in America. I said in my Sundance review, “After nearly a decade, the director finally returns to the festival with his feature follow-up The Nest, another exquisitely mounted drama that revels in letting minute character details slowly become elucidated as Durkin puts trust into his audience to pick up the pieces along the way. In peeling back the layers of a fractured family and the soulless drive for wealth, the emptiness underneath is patiently revealed, so much so that it backs itself into a heavy-handed corner.”

Where to Watch: In Theaters

2. Kajillionaire (Miranda July; Sept. 25)

Miranda July’s Kajillionaire is a con movie like no other, featuring a peculiar family (Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, and Debra Winger) of grifters and a new associate (Gina Rodriguez) that enters the picture pull off a new heist. I said in my review from Sundance, “If one closes their eyes and imagines what a con movie in the hands of Miranda July might look like, I still don’t think you’d get anywhere close to what Kajillionaire actually ends up being. Then again, it’s precisely those creative impulses for the unexpected that has made the writer-director’s work so special. With her third feature, she crafts a singular story about the bonds of family and what happens when those bonds are tested–or never existed in the first place. More abstract than her previous films–and therefore, I imagine, off-putting to many–the steady, surreal, and sweet flashes of brilliance in this one-of-a-kind story are enough to sustain interest during some of the more tedious passages.”

Where to Watch: In Theaters

1. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman; Sept. 4)

Following epic, hilarious debut novel Antkind, Charlie Kaufman is also returning this year with his next film, which marks his follow-up to Anomalisa and his first live-action film since his debut 12 years ago, Synecdoche, New York. Orla Smith said in our review,I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a puzzle box of a movie, one I’m still desperately trying to prise open, but one of its many layers is a metatextual comment on the concept of “originality” itself. The film is a curious case: an utterly original work made up almost entirely of unoriginal elements. Kaufman keeps a lot of Reid’s stream of consciousness dialogue (or inner monologue) intact, and almost all of Kaufman’s additional dialogue is about other works of art: a poem by Eva H.D., a review by Pauline Kael, references to David Foster Wallace, Robert Zemeckis, Billy Crystal, Tolstoy, and Oklahoma! Kaufman even plays with different genres, from horror to rom-com to ballet to musical theatre to animation—it’s a joy to watch and a complete mindfuck. It feels like Kaufman is unspooling his personal anxieties about the pressure to be original when so much of what an artist creates is just a collage of different influences.”

Where to Watch: Netflix

Honorable Mentions

Robin’s Wish (9/1)
Mulan (9/4)
All In: The Fight for Democracy (9/9)
Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President (9/9)
The Social Dilemma (9/9)
Buoyancy (9/11)
The Secrets We Keep (9/16)
Residue (9/17)
Antebellum (9/18)
Blackbird (9/18)
Jay Sebring….Cutting to the Truth (9/22)
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (9/23)
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles (9/25)
The Artist’s Wife (9/25)
The Glorias (9/30)
The Boys in the Band (9/30)

No more articles