Emmy Rossum and Sean Penn in Mystic River; Photo - Warner Bros.

If it's fall, it must be time for the New York Film Festival. This year, the opening night film is Mystic River, the ensemble drama directed by Clint Eastwood. The cast is ridiculously loaded with great actors: Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laurence Fishburne. The story is dark, eliciting comparisons to Eastwood's tour de force western, Unforgiven, but its present day setting makes it more wrenching. Sean Penn also stands a good chance of being nominated come Oscar time, based on the buzz of his performance as a father whose daughter is murdered.

The Times' A.O. Scott says, "'Mystic River' is the rare American movie that aspires to — and achieves — the full weight and darkness of tragedy." The Daily News' Jack Matthews thinks Mystic River is great, plus looks at the rest of the NYFF slate.

Gothamist has been waiting for Mystic River since it premiered at Cannes in May, so we're excited to see it tonight at Lincoln Center. We're also seeing these other films during the NYFF (more descriptions of films here); and in parentheses are recommendations about what to rent if you're not going:

Flower of EvilFlower of Evil - Claude Chabrol thriller (Chabrol's Les Bonnes Femmes from early in his career or the more recent La Ceremonie)
Young Adam - Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Emily Mortimer, Peter Mullan in a romantic thriller (Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book, also starring a hyper-sexed McGregor or The Deep End with a great Swinton performance)
Elephant - Gus Van Sant's Palme D'Or winning film loosely based on the Columbine shootings (Obviously, Bowling for Columbine)
Robert McNamaraThe Fog of War - Secretary of State during the Vietnam War Robert McNamara examined by Errol Morris (Morris' Gates of Heaven, the best movie you'll ever see about pet cemetaries)
PTU - Hong Kong kung fu movie (Not so much kung fu, but a great movie about Hong Kong cops that worth another look, Chungking Express)
Mayor of Sunset StripMayor of Sunset Strip - Documentary about Hollywood rock scenester of the 60s (Movie scenester Robert Evans in The Kid Stays in the Picture)
21 Grams - More Sean Penn, this time with Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, directed by Amores Perros director Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu (more Charlotte Gainsbourg: My Wife Is An Actress or La Buche)

Plus there's also the wonderful Yasujiro Ozu Retrospective that will run from today till November 5.