Directed by Paul Dano
The directorial debut of prolific actor Dano, “Wildlife” centers on a 1960s Montana couple (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) who’ve reached a turning point in their marriage. The emotionally complex narrative pivots on how their 14-year-old son, played by Ed Oxenbould, processes the changes in the dynamics of his parents’ relationship. “It’s a family portrait,” says Dano. He hopes that “people will see a piece of themselves in the film. The more personal something is to someone, the more universal it becomes. It’s always about making a connection.”
Directed by Joel Edgerton
Adapted for the screen, co-starring, and directed by eclectic talent Edgerton (“The Gift”), the provocative drama “Boy Erased,” which played Toronto, takes a devastating and impactful look at the controversial practice of gay-conversion therapy, and the perilous effects it has on one individual and his deeply religious Christain family. Starring Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the tormented parents and Lucas Hedges as their son, Edgerton based his hot-button film on the memoir by Garrard Conley. Edgerton says that the project “got under my skin so much that it became a film I had to make. It’s meant to incite opinion and challenge or re-affirm people’s beliefs.”
Directed by Karyn Kusama
The cop film has been due for a cinematic rebirth and with Kusama’s hard-hitting policer, the genre has been given a fresh shot of vitality. Scripted by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (“The Invitation”), this down and dirty Los Angeles-set tale centers on a morally ambiguous detective (Nicole Kidman, in a transformative role), and her quest for existential and physical justice. “Karyn sees the film completely and is very collaborative. It’s a story about accountability and responsibility,” says Hay. Manfredi adds that they were “inspired by Don Siegel and films from the 1970s” when conceiving their narrative.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Directed by Marielle Heller
People notice when successful female comedians take on dramatic material, just as Melissa McCarthy has done in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Helmed by Marielle Heller (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”) and co-written by Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”) and Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”), the film centers on financially struggling author Lee Israel, who forged and sold a series of celebrity-written letters, while also focusing on her friendship with an eccentric street hustler, played by Richard E. Grant. “It’s a poignant story about living on the fringes of society,” says Grant. “As an actor that’s a gift to play.”
The Hate U Give
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
The film is very timely, says the director. “More than any other film I’ve done, I made this one exactly as I wanted.” Adapted by Audrey Wells (“A Dog’s Purpose”) from Angie Thomas’ best-selling novel, the film features Amandla Stenberg and examines an inner-city community that is reeling from a wrongful shooting death at the hands of the police. Tillman hopes that the film “starts a conversation while still providing entertainment.”
The Kindergarten Teacher
Directed by Sara Colangelo
Netflix’s “The Kindergarten Teacher,” from writer-director Colangelo (“Little Accidents”), was adapted from a 2014 Israeli film of the same name, and tells the gripping story of a veteran school teacher, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who discovers tremendous artistic promise in one of her 5-year-old students (Parker Sevak). She develops a unique relationship with the potential prodigy, despite the protests of the boy’s parents, who’d prefer to see their son follow a more traditional path through childhood.