Yes, the top dollar films scheduled to open and close the New York Film Festival this year do indeed look to feed Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for the grandeur of accomplished men. But that doesn’t mean we should discount the fest altogether as a buffet of worthwhile female-centric movies at the New York Film Festival. Accompanying NYFF opener The Walk, about the French funambulist who attempted a tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974, centerpiece Steve Jobs, about the eponymous cyberspace entrepreneur, and Miles Ahead, about jazz musician and artistic icon Miles Davis, are a good number of features and documentaries starring, directed by, and about women — and in quite a variety to boot.
A few of the films in question fall within what audiences have come to identify as the gradient of festival fare, tampering in broken hearts and existential crises. But viewers seeking the fantastical, the adventure-laden, the action-charged, and the comical can likewise look to New York Film Festival’s plate of female-led movies. Headlining some of these pictures are extant favorites including Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Rooney Mara, Saoirse Ronan, and Greta Gerwig, along with a slew of new faces readying for discovery. If you’re spending the turn of autumn in New York City and are hankering for a few big screen endeavors devoted to the stories of women, here are a few NYFF releases that might be worth keeping your eye on.
1. The Assassin
What it is: The story of a lifelong mercenary's attempts to stay alive and keep her honor in the heat of a war between two politicians who seek her talents.
Who's involved: Taiwanese actress Qi Shu, whom American audiences might remember from Georgeous, The Transporter, and Journey to the West.
2. Maggie's Plan
What it is: A comedic love story between a newly pregnant young woman and an unhappily married man.
Who's involved: Greta Gerwig, star and writer of this year's terrifically madcap Mistress America, plays the titular Maggie alongside Julianne Moore, who provides he third point of her troublesome love triangle. Rebecca Miller, the mind behind The Ballad of Jack and Rose, writes and directs.
3. Journey to the Shore
What it is: A young widow is inscrutably revisited by her dead husband three years after his passing, and agrees to follow him on a fantastical quest.
Who's involved: Star Eri Fukatsu might not offer much in the way of familiarity for American audiences, but she's proven herself a viable talent with Japanese films like the crime drama Villain and television series like the comical cop show Bayside Shakedown.
What it is: A tender tale of romance between an Irish immigrant and a working class Italian boy in 1950s Brooklyn.
Who's involved: Saoirse Ronan taps into her inner ingénue as New York newcomer Eilis.
5. No Home Movie
What it is and who's involved: The two questions go hand in hand for this documentary, in which director Chantal Akerman turns the camera on herself and her family in an attempt to immortalize the story of her mother, an aging Auschwitz survivor.
6. Mountains May Depart
What it is: If one love triangle picture wasn't enough for you, you're in luck. Especially if you're also game for a complicated romance that leaps between eras, ending up in the year 2025.
Who's involved: Headlining the film is Chinese actress Zhao Tao, whose most internationally recognizable movies include Still Life and A Touch of Sin. Also starring is Taiwanese actress Sylvia Chang, whose dozens upon dozens of credits as an actor, writer, and director include the Mad Mission films, Eight Hundred Heroes, Tempting Heart, 20 30 40, and an episode of M*A*S*H.
What it is: The chronicle of a blossoming romance between a young dreamer and her new, much older friend Carol, in 1950s New York.
Who's involved: Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett play opposite each other in this picture, which is enough of a sell even without the rave reviews.
8. Right Now, Wrong Then
What it is: The simplest approach to romance that the fest has to offer, singing of the affections of two young artists over the course of a single day... twice.
Who's involved: South Korean actress Kim Min-hee stars. Past roles include Actresses, Hellcats, and Very Ordinary Couple.
9. Don't Blink — Robert Frank
What it is and who's involved: While the documentary in question does lend focus to a masculine party, photographer Robert Frank, it spawns from director Laura Israel. Don't Blink is editor Israel's second directorial project, following the 2010 ecological doc Windfall.
These are just a sampling of the amazing movies with women at their center that the New York Film Festival has to offer. And every single one of them looks like it's more than worthy of everyone's attention and of critical acclaim.
Images: The Weinstein Company (2); Hall Monitor/Locomotive/Rachel Horovitz Productions/Round Films; Well Go USA; Lionsgate; Liaison Cinematographique/Paradise Films; Ad Vitam; 01 Distribution/Le Pacte; Arte France Cinema/Fandango/Ifitalia/Le Pacte/Rai Cinema/Sacher Film; Next Entertainment World/Finecut; Assemblage Films