For years, the Mill Valley Film Festival has made its name on (at least) a trio of attributes: an incredibly eclectic, boundary-pushing selection of films from all over the globe; an almost eery ability to showcase films that end up garnering Academy Awards; and celebrity appearances by actors and directors to receive in-person tributes and to accompany awards-worthy screenings.
In 2020, for the most obvious of reasons, MVFF organizers pivoted to at-home virtual screenings, and a makeshift San Rafael drive-in. They did so again in 2021, with the return of a lineup of in-person appearances from some Hollywood A-listers, including the Opening Night California premiere of “Cyrano,” acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve showcasing his version of “Dune,” and a tribute to actor/writer/director Kenneth Branagh and his autobiographical film, “Belfast.” Director Wes Anderson showed his closing-night film, “The French Dispatch,” and a cast of the best in the business in the clever and the quirky.
This year, the festival’s 45th edition marks a return to the norm, with the retention of at-home virtual screenings Organizers have landed a stellar cast of all of the above for MVFF’s 145-film program from Oct. 6-16. “This year is kind of like the phoenix rising out of the ashes of the craziness of the last few years,” MVFF Director of Programming Zoe Elton told the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that 2022 “is proving to be an extraordinary year for extraordinary films. I’m amazed by how many filmmakers are presenting such profound and original work this year.”
Opening Night, Oct. 6: Rian Johnson’s ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’
MVFF45 opens with a sonic boom on Oct. 6 at 6pm, as celebrated director Rian Johnson comes to Mill Valley with “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” a follow-up to his 2019 whodunit “Knives Out,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Johnson will be joined by actors Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, and producer Ram Bergman at the CinéArts Sequoia. Johnson made his debut with the neo-noir mystery film Brick in 2005 and turned that success into the thrilling science-fiction thriller Looper (2012) before landing his largest project yet with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), which grossed over $1 billion.
In Johnson’s follow-up, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) travels to Greece to peel back the layers of a mystery involving a new cast of colorful suspects. MVFF organizers say, “With a wily brilliance, Johnson’s script leaves no trope untrodden: At a high-tech, exotic island hideaway, his brilliant cast of characters—disruptors and suspects all—play it out with wit and aplomb. The new cast also includes Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, with Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will be released in select theaters on a to be announced date and globally on Netflix December 23, 2022.
Oct. 10: Moussa Sene Absa’s Xalé
MVFF’s Bri’anna Moore: “Acclaimed Senegalese director Moussa Sene Absa (Madame Brouette, MVFF26) unites ancient and contemporary modes of storytelling in this visually stunning and emotionally resonant tale of familial love, loyalty, and diaspora. The drama centers on Awa, a 15-year-old student, and her twin brother (and confidante) Adamo, who dreams of a better life in Europe. When their beloved grandmother arranges for their Aunt Fatou to marry a relative whom Fatou detests, the results of this forced union bear consequences not only for the unhappy couple, but for the community — and, most gravely, for the twins. Sene Absa’s beautifully crafted film is as steeped in traditional African storytelling as it is rooted in contemporary Senegalese life. Among its many innovations is the appearance of two choruses of narrators: one male (les griots) and one female (les griottes). But at its heart, Xalé is young Awa’s story, brought to life with an amazing performance from newcomer Nguissaly Barry.” MORE INFO & TIX.
Oct. 11: Centerpiece, ‘Till’
Zoe Elton: “Visually striking and moving, Till centers the story of Emmett Till through the experience of his mother, Mamie Till Mobley. It’s a powerful choice, revealing the journey of a mother for whom grief becomes action—and whose action changes history. Danielle Deadwyler as Till Mobley is brilliant, and leads a terrific cast, including Jalyn Hall, who exudes a confident charisma as Emmett, Whoopi Goldberg, and Frankie Faison. It feels as though director-screenwriter Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency, MVFF42) empowered her cast to go deep in an incredibly truthful way, creating a breathtaking drama that confirms all the promise of her earlier work with sure-handed artistry and insight. The emotional integrity of the cast is a great counterpoint to the wonderfully cinematic experience that she creates, with a confidence and style that recalls classic American film. This is a story both timeless and timely, as full of love as it is of grief.” Chukwu and Deadwyler, who portrays Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, are expected to appear at MVFF. MORE INFO & TIX.
Oct. 13: Darren Aronofsky’s ‘The Whale’ & Brendan Fraser Tribute
From MVFF: “Based on Samuel D. Hunter’s acclaimed stage play, The Whale follows a reclusive English teacher suffering from a severe psychological food disorder as he attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption. Hinging on a career-defining performance from Brendan Fraser, The Whale is an emotionally resonant tour de force, by turns funny and devastating. Fraser plays Charlie, a 600-pound online writing teacher and fragile gay man stricken by grief. Confined to his dead-end Idaho apartment, Charlie ticks off his days binging on pizzas as visitors cycle in and out: an enabling caregiver (Hong Chau), a wayward missionary (Ty Simpkins), an angry-as-hell daughter (Sadie Sink), and an alcoholic ex-wife (Samantha Morton). Samuel D. Hunter brilliantly adapts his award-winning 2012 play, plumbing the complex nooks and crannies of religion, loss, sexuality, and literature. Ever sensitive to Fraser’s vulnerable and commanding performance, visionary director Darren Aronofsky (Variety Contenders, MVFF37) proves an ideal match for the material, giving it edge, humor, and unsentimental heft. —Randy Myers
The film, directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Brendan Fraser, also offered MVFF an opportunity to pay tribute to Fraser, who will be on hand for an onstage conversation and receive the MVFF Award. From MVFF organizers: “Seamlessly transitioning from smart, independent films to action-packed blockbusters, Brendan Fraser continues to garner widespread critical acclaim for his versatile, inspired performances and a keen eye for selecting thought-provoking material.” In addition to The Whale, Fraser is in Legendary Pictures’ Brothers alongside Glenn Close, Josh Brolin, and Peter Dinklage. He’s also a supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s new Epic Western, Killers Of The Flower Moon. Fraser has been in a string of some of the most successful independent films of the past decade, including Lionsgate’s Academy-award-winning Best Picture Crash, directed by Paul Haggis; Phillip Noyce’s The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene’s 1955 thriller of the same name; and Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters, opposite Sir Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave. The Whale opens in the US on Dec. 9. MORE INFO & TIX.
Oct. 15: Noah Baumbach’s Adaptation of Don DeLillo’s ‘White Noise’
MVFF’s Pam Grady: “Writer-director-producer Noah Baumbach dazzles in his first film since his acclaimed Marriage Story (MVFF42 Ensemble Award) with this exquisite, epic adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 National Book Award-winning novel. It is a towering achievement that folds satires of academia, consumerism, and fear of death into an exploration of the family, a theme Baumbach has so brilliantly mined throughout his career in such films as The Squid and the Whale (MVFF28) and Margot at the Wedding (MVFF30). At a Midwestern college, middle-aged Jack (Adam Driver) is a superstar professor who pioneered the field of Hitler studies. He and his fourth wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) share brainy, verbal children from their various marriages in a happy household but one threatened by both internal and external forces. Don Cheadle adds a striking supporting turn as Murray, a professor starting a new field of Elvis studies with whom Jack shares kinship and friendly rivalry.” MORE INFO & TIX.
Oct. 15-16: Nikyatu Jusu‘s ‘Nanny
MVFF: “In this psychological fable of displacement, Aisha (Anna Diop), a woman who recently emigrated from Senegal, is hired to care for the daughter of an affluent couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector) living in New York City. Haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind, Aisha hopes her new job will afford her the chance to bring him to the U.S. but becomes increasingly unsettled by the family’s volatile home life. As his arrival approaches, a violent presence begins to invade both her dreams and her reality, threatening the American dream she is painstakingly piecing together. Juku is the second black woman director and Nanny is the first horror film to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Anna Diop, who plays the lead in Nanny, will join Jusu on stage for a post-screening conversation. Senegalese-American actress Diop is known for her portrayal as Kory Anders on the DC Universe/HBO Max series Titans as well a being a series regular on The CW supernatural mystery The Messengers and the Fox thriller 24:Legacy. MORE INFO & TIX.
Closing Night, Oct. 16: Tobias Lindholm’s ‘The Good Nurse’
MVFF45 closes on Oct. 16 with Tobias Lindholm’s The Good Nurse, starring Academy Award winners Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain. Lindholm, Redmayne and actor Nnamdi Asomugha will appear on behalf of the film. Based on true events, the film details the story of Amy (Chastain), a compassionate nurse and single mother struggling with a life-threatening heart condition, is stretched to her physical and emotional limits by the hard and demanding night shifts at the ICU. But help arrives when Charlie (Redmayne), a thoughtful and empathetic fellow nurse, starts at her unit. While sharing long nights at the hospital, the two develop a strong and devoted friendship, and for the first time in years, Amy truly has faith in her and her young daughters’ future. But after a series of mysterious patient deaths sets off an investigation that points to Charlie as the prime suspect, Amy is forced to risk her life and the safety of her children to uncover the truth.
Lindholm is an award-winning Danish screenwriter and film director known for gritty moral dramas. In addition to writing for television, including the popular Danish political TV series Borgen and HBO’s highly acclaimed six-part series, The Investigation, Lindholm wrote and directed the 2015 drama A War (Danish: Krigen), nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards and co-wrote Thomas Vinterberg’s Submarino (2010), The Hunt (2012), and his 2020 Academy Award-winning film Another Round (MVFF43). The Good Nurse, his first English language feature film, is scheduled to open in select theaters October 19 and will premiere on Netflix October 26, 2022.
There will be a Closing Night party on the Depot Plaza in downtown Mill Valley.
MVFF45 Closing Night // THE GOOD NURSE
Sunday, October 16 • 5:00 PM
CinéArts Sequoia in Mill Valley (25 Throckmorton Ave.)
Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael (1118 Fourth Street)