mon 26/02/2024

Film Reviews

Mad About the Boy review - entertaining cradle-to-grave Noel Coward documentary

Helen Hawkins

Devoted fans may not learn anything that new about Noel Coward from Barnaby Thompson’s documentary Mad About the Boy, but they will doubtless see some new things. And those who know “the Master” only from his early plays, hardy perennials these days in British theatres, will marvel at the sheer range and volume of his output.

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Master Gardener review - a Paul Schrader perennial

Nick Hasted

Gardener Narvel (Joel Edgerton) sniffs soil the way Blue Velvet’s Frank inhaled gas, finding erasure and release. Following Ethan Hawke’s priest in First Reformed (2017) and Oscar Isaac’s titular job in The Card Counter (2021), Paul Schrader’s latest driven protagonist verges on absurd, finding solace in pruning before deploying his secateurs with a prior, particular set of skills.

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Under the Fig Trees review - a sensual day in the Tunisian sun

Nick Hasted

Tunisian lives unfold over a working day in Erige Sehiri’s debut Under the Fig Trees, with fig-picking the backdrop to furtive, sparking collisions between men and women. Love, liberation and oppression all take their turn under the sun as community is strengthened or challenged, and a society is subtly implied.

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Hypnotic review - a riotously enjoyable thriller

Adam Sweeting

Masterminded by writer-director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids etc), Hypnotic is a speedy, twisty, riotously enjoyable thriller that seeks to bend your mind into impossible shapes while also delivering more than a few droll wisecracks.

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Full Time review - Laure Calamy as a driven single mother

Saskia Baron

Full Time opens in darkness. All we can hear is the sound of a sleeping woman breathing. It’s one of the few quiet moments in a film that follows Julie (Laure Calamy) as she scrambles to manage her life. Divorced with two young children, she lives in a village and commutes to Paris.

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Inland review - a cracked mosaic of memories, impressions and lurking anxiety

Adam Sweeting

Fridtjof Ryder’s debut feature made a strong impression at last year’s London Film Festival, and its cinema release ought to give the Gloucester-born director’s career a hefty shove in the right direction. Although that doesn’t mean that Inland is an especially easy-viewing experience.

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Beau is Afraid review - life's ordeals in lengthy detail

Matt Wolf

Life's journey is a challenge, and then some, for Beau Wasserman (Joaquin Phoenix), the beleaguered Odysseus/Job  (you choose!) equivalent figure at the savage heart of Ari Aster's new film Beau is Afraid. But imagine surviving unimaginable ordeals on the long road of existence only to be met at the end by the Broadway legend Patti LuPone?

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Moon Is the Oldest TV review - a fitting tribute to a visionary modern artist

Helen Hawkins

Who created the term “electronic superhighway”? First described a system of linked communication that would become the internet? Envisioned a multichannel TV system where viewers chose for themselves what to tune into? Watch Amanda Kim’s excellent documentary Moon Is the Oldest TV and you find that the correct answer to all those questions is Nam June Paik.

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Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret review - Judy Blume's iconic novel hits the big screen

Markie Robson-Scott

Margaret Simon (a brilliant Abby Ryder Fortson) is 11. What she wants above all is to be “normal and regular like everyone else”. This means getting her period at the right time – “I’d die if I didn’t get it till I was 16,” she tells her mother (Rachel McAdams) – and filling out her Gro-Bra. An only child, she makes God her confidant and asks him to help.

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Plan 75 review - dystopian vision of euthanasia in Japan

Saskia Baron

It’s not a great moment for older audiences contemplating an outing to the cinema. They could have their intelligence insulted with the feeble, sugary comedy, Book Club: The Next Chapter or they could choose Plan 75 and find themselves looking nervously over their shoulder. This debut feature by Chie Hayakawa is a sombre drama set not too far in the future.

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Book Club: The Next Chapter review - lacklustre dialogue, clichéd plot

Saskia Baron

I was once invited to join a book club by a bunch of friendly, clever women. But their conversation began with whether they liked the novel’s central characters enough to imagine having dinner with them and from there, descended into swapping tips about conquering visible panty line and the effectiveness of various moisturisers.

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Brainwashed review - the toxic impact of the 'male gaze' in film

Helen Hawkins

The phrase “male gaze” was coined by the British film theorist Laura Mulvey in 1975 and has become a standard tool for analysing a film’s gendered content. What director Nina Menkes has set out to show in Brainwashed is that the techniques that create the male gaze have entered cinema’s DNA and become standard across the genders, for makers and watchers alike. “It’s like a law,” she says. This is bad news for us all, she argues, not just cineastes.

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The Blue Caftan review - unstitching repression in Morocco

Hugh Barnes

The eponymous garment in The Blue Caftan is a thing of beauty meticulously stitched and embroidered by Halim (Saleh Bakri), a maalem or master tailor, in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. His craftmanship, with its focus on intricate details and on colour, is reflected in writer-director Maryam Touzani’s filmmaking, which is equally time-weighted and precise.

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Return to Seoul review - lost in translation

Nick Hasted

Freddie (Park Ji-min) is a social hand grenade, flinging herself into situations to see where the splinters fall. Born in Korea but adopted and raised by French parents, a seemingly impulsive, brief detour to Seoul sees her seek out her birth-parents.

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The Dam review - a remarkably haunting allegory

Sarah Kent

Maher (Maher el Khair, an actual brick-maker) works in a brickyard sloshing sticky mud into rectangular moulds with his bare hands. Next the mud bricks are tipped out to dry in the sun, before being fired in a large, wood fired kiln. The same process has been used for centuries, yet this brickyard is within spitting distance of the Merowe Dam, a state-of-the-art hydroelectric dam built across the Nile in Sudan. Ancient and modern technologies collide.

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Harka review - when hope is a desert

Hugh Barnes

The incendiary topic of Egyptian-American director Lotfy Nathan’s debut feature Harka is poverty and corruption in Tunisia a decade after the failed promise of the Arab Spring.

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