Too near, too far. To love or to hate. Gentle, sweet and cruel relationships.

Dark River (2017)

The Yorkshire depicted in Clio Barnard’s third feature, Dark River, has much in common with that of Francis Lee’s recent triumph, God’s Own Country: a place of hard labor and lowering skies, of bleating sheep and repressed sexuality. Yet even in the swelling canon of British rural miserabilism, this unrelentingly intense psychodrama burrows beneath the skin. Much of that is due to Ruth Wilson’s tough, traumatized performance as Alice, an itinerant sheep shearer who returns home to claim tenancy of the family farm. Fifteen years have passed, and her estranged brother, Joe (a fine Mark Stanley), who nursed their terminally ill father while the farm crumbled around them, is not having it. He might be a bitter drunk – and the farm, under his stewardship, a vermin-infested husk of the smallholding Alice remembers – but he feels equally owed his inheritance. And, unlike Alice, entirely unable to share it. [Dark
Screenings

Dear Son (2018)

We do not live in subtle times, and of all nuance-annihilating topics, few are as dramatically divisive as jihadism. Which makes Mohammed Ben Attia’s delicate portrait of devastation, Dear Son, remarkable for the quietness of its approach, its rich, calm, generous characterizations, and the compassion it evokes for extremism’s more indirect victims. After his award-winning 2016 debut Hedi, which was, like Dear Son, co-produced by the Dardenne brothers, Ben Attia has confirmed himself as an unassuming auteur of ordinary life in Tunisia, in which global, block-capital concerns are writ in intimate, personal cursive. The film is both anchored and elevated by a performance of simple, radiant decency from Mohamed Dhrif […]. He plays Riadh, a Tunisian dock worker married to Nazli (Mouna Mejri […]) who is the pragmatic foil to Riadh’s slightly impractical optimism. Their son, Sami (Zakaria Ben Ayed) is about to take his Baccalaureate exams and has been
Screenings

The Heiresses (2018)

A femme-centric study of two older women in a relationship for decades who’ve fallen on financial hard times, the film exquisitely balances character study with shrewd commentary on the precarious hierarchy of class distinctions, the turbulent persistence of sexual desire and the lingering privileges of Paraguay’s elite. Using largely unknown actresses with practically no screen experience yet an extraordinarily canny understanding of character, the director-writer [Marcelo Martinessi] achieves a heightened degree of insight […]. Martinessi keeps tight control over this intimate, hermetic world via carefully calibrated focal lengths and limited establishing shots. […] Chela (Ana Brun) has her identity bound up in [the] well-to-do house where she’s lived her entire life. Now however, thanks to accumulating debts that the bank calls fraud, her life partner Chiquita (Margarita Irún) will have to go to jail while Chela continues to sell off the paintings, furniture, silverware, and crystal that signify their position
Screenings

In the Aisles (2018)

Sandra Hüller is the German actress who found world-cinema stardom on account of her performance in the black comedy Toni Erdmann; now she makes a very stylish appearance […] in this utterly engrossing and richly humane workplace drama In the Aisles, from Thomas Stuber. Franz Rogowski (who was in Sebastian Schipper’s one-take robbery thriller Victoria, [HIFF 2015]) plays Christian, a quiet, watchful guy who has just started work in a gigantic cash-and-carry megastore. […] Christian keeps himself to himself, and is keen to cover up evidence of a more delinquent past […].Hüller is Marion, who works on the confectionery section […]. She takes a distinct shine to Christian, and he to her. As Bruno [Peter Kurth] says gleefully to Christian: “You’re forklifting like a lunatic because you’re in love!” In the Aisles is a movie on that overwhelmingly important but rarely filmed subject: work. […]The functional, unpersonalised area of office
Screenings

Petra (2018)

Jaime Rosales has a reputation for tackling big themes with austerity and slowness in a way that ticks critics’ boxes but leaves viewers alienated. With Petra, he maintains the trend toward accessibility he started with 2014’s Beautiful Youth by retaining his signature formal techniques but front-loading his film with a new (for him) element: a satisfyingly complex plotline. The result is an intense, cunningly structured and rewarding item about a woman’s search for her father […]. After the death of her mother, Julia (Petra Martinez), Petra [Barbara Lennie] shows up at a large family estate in the Catalan countryside to study under Jaume (Joan Botey), the aging artist and owner. The concerns of Petra are the universal ones of Greek tragedy, updated to contemporary Spain, and it’s from Greek tragedy that the tight, complex plotting, the timelessness and the air of impending doom that hangs over Petra are drawn. Like
Screenings

The Return (2018)

Pushing fact and fiction to the point where one is unsure just what is scripted and what, for lack of a better word, is real, Malene Choi’s The Return offers a playful, affecting and at times disorienting portrait of group of thirtysomethings who have quite literally been disoriented. Inspired by elements from the filmmaker’s own life and the lives of those she puts on screen, this hybrid feature follows two Danish-South Korean adoptees as they return to their birth country in search of their respective biological parents, and could prove to be a significant international breakthrough for the trained documentarian. The film follows Danes Karoline (Karoline Sofie Lee) and Thomas (Thomas Hwan) as they trek through Seoul and its neighbouring cities looking to better understand their thorny cultural heritage. While the fictive construct is never in doubt […] Choi often presents the action onscreen with documentarian remove, while the camera’s
Screenings
If you watched the [trailer] for the writer/director Stephan Elliott’s Swinging Safari, you might have assumed all the kooky bits were plucked out to make an outrageously cockeyed, slaphappy promo. I can assure you the actual film is 10 times as batshit crazy as the marketing materials suggest. It is also a fabulously sly, cynical and cheeky coming-of-age story, comparable to the film-maker’s two rolled gold and beer-battered comedy classics: the immortal The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and underrated Welcome to Woop Woop. Swinging Safari is set in a satirical, whitebread Australian yesteryear, circa Sydney in the 1970s. […] Fourteen-year-old protagonist Jeff (a fine film debut from Atticus Robb) is an aspiring film-maker armed with an 8mm camera […]. The story unfolds from his perspective but screen time is spread more or less evenly between three families.Top billing, star-wise, belongs to the Hall family: Guy Pearce as
Screenings
The clash between pragmatism and idealism turns acute in Annemarie Jacir’s father-son drama Wajib, an intimate, well-played disquisition on what it means to be a Palestinian abroad versus a Palestinian at home. Real father-and-son duo Mohammad and Saleh Bakri handle the leads with their distinctive charismas intact – the older gentleman representing the realist negotiating the compromises necessary when you’re an Arab in Nazareth, the younger actor embodying the diasporic community who remain politically engaged yet naïve in their blinkered view of life back home. [A]rchitect Shadi (Saleh Bakri, a Jacir regular) returns to Nazareth from Rome to help with preparations for the upcoming wedding of his sister Amal (Maria Zriek). Together with his divorced father Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri), a teacher, the two men drive around the city in an old Volvo, delivering invitations to all the people who must be invited. The Bakris […] easily convey familial warmth
Screenings