The most startling of the festival’s official premieres was Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa.

There are years when a single movie takes ahold of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with such force that the rest of the festival seems to bend around it, as if warped by its gravity. And there are TIFFs like 2015’s, where, for all the great movies on display, nothing lands with quite the same impact. You could call it an off year, but when you’re choosing among more than 300 films from many of the world’s greatest directors, some of the blame has to lie with the person doing the picking.

Toronto had a few consensus hits: The Martian, an adaptation of Andy Weir’s engaging but amateurish novel, replaced workmanlike prose with movie-star charisma, as Matt Damon’s stranded astronaut gave the red planet a second sun. Spotlight, about the team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse in the priesthood, was gripping despite, or maybe because of, its attention to the nuts and bolts of investigative journalism. (Never has the use of a ruler and a ballpoint pen been so thrilling.) Spotlight was a striking change of fortunes for director Tom McCarthy, whose Adam Sandler fable The Cobbler was roundly pummeled at last year’s TIFF: From festival goat to proclaimed Best Picture frontrunner in 365 short days.

Room, which won Toronto’s audience award, was a solid if unspectacular adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel about an abducted young woman (Brie Larson) and the boy she raises in captivity (Jacob Tremblay). Director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) can’t find an analogue for the terrifying lyricism of the novel’s first half, told in the voice of a child whose vocabulary has been customized by his mother to protect him from learning he’s imprisoned. But it’s also less fatally jarring when the movie moves into its second half: Compared to the novel, it’s a more whole whole, with less high highs.

The most startling of the festival’s official premieres was Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa, which even in Toronto’s packed lineup had some viewers going back for seconds to further savor its uncanny atmosphere. Kaufman’s first movie in seven years (some of which he spent making a failed TV pilot for FX) is the story of a regret-riddled self-help author’s overnight in a lonely Cincinnati hotel. Shooting in stop-motion animation — with figures whose fleshy textures deliberately trouble the uncanny valley —  Kaufman mines existential dread from the process of navigating the inexplicable pictographs on a hotel-room phone. The sense of isolation his protagonist (David Thewlis) feels is compounded by the fact that all the people he meets seem to look the same — and, in fact they are, all built on the same model of puppet and voiced, with precious little variation, by Tom Noonan. The only exception is a woman, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose name and significance are embedded in the title, who — well, to say more would be to provide bearings for a film that never wants you to find your balance. (Although sales were slow at this year’s festival, Paramount acquired Anomalisa for distribution, with a release planned for the end of the year.)

Now in its 40th year, TIFF began as The Festival of Festivals, and it still serves as a North American beachhead for movies that had their European premieres in the spring. Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years and Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room weren’t new to anyone who was, respectively, at Berlin or Cannes, but they were still the best movies I saw in Toronto — and about as far from each other as two movies could be. 45 Years is a hushed, almost ghostly examination of an outwardly stable marriage that begins to unravel when a long-forgotten secret from the husband’s resurfaces. Tom Courtenay is wonderful as a vaguely doddering man who discovers that the feelings he thought he’d buried were merely waiting to be thawed, but the movie belongs to Charlotte Rampling, as a woman who slowly discovers that the foundations of her marriage weren’t what she thought them to be. Although Haigh’s style is scrupulously naturalist, Rampling pulls the film into territory approaching François Ozon’s Under the Sand; her doubts take on an almost supernatural quality, as if they’ve moved into the house along with them. At this point in her career, Rampling has so internalized technique that she can forget most of it and still make her intentions acute; in the last scene, her face is a mask, but her hands speak volumes.

Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, which went over big with Toronto’s always-engaged Midnight Madness program audience, expands on the promise of his previous film Blue Ruin, which he admitted before the new premiere was a calculated mixture of art-house and genre designed to prevent him from being pigeonholed. With Green Room, he’s creating his own categories, mixing a gory siege thriller with a well-observed portrait of the hardcore punk scene.

Toronto can be as much an endurance test as a temple of cinema, and with Green Room being my seventh film of the festival’s first day, the chances of a mid-film nap were better than even. That is, until the blood started flowing onscreen, at which point I was wide awake. Both funnier and darker than Blue Ruin, Green Room expands Saulnier’s palette in both directions, and if it’s a less controlled piece of work, it’s also a more viscerally thrilling one. I spent the rest of Toronto waiting for something to top it, and nothing did.