dir Pablo Larrain; with Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard 16/US *****
Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain takes a clear-eyed approach to this fictionalised account of the days following JFK's assassination. Anchored by a pungent performance by Natalie Portman, the film digs deep into the complexities of grief, with glancing blows to celebrity culture and political expediency. Never slick or sentimental, its layers of resonance are hard to shake.
dir Nick Hamm; with Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney 16/UK ***
Anchored by tremendous performances by Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney, this British drama imagines a real-life political conversation in the style of The Queen or Frost/Nixon. Even though it's simplistic and contrived, Colin Bateman's script is snaky and often very funny as it traps mortal enemies Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness in a car for an hour or so. The resuly is entertaining, although it could have had a lot more bite.
dir-scr Terrence Malick; narr Cate Blanchett 16/US ***
Call this the logical next stage in the evolution of Terrence Malick: his swirling approach to natural history has eschewed even a hint of a plot to instead trace time from drifting bits of matter to, well, drifting bits of matter. With all of Earth's existence in between. It's often breathtakingly gorgeous, and there are some very clever touches. But it's also rather corny, and a bit obvious.
dir Andrey Konchalovsky; with Yuliya Vysotskaya, hristian Clauss 16/Russia ***.
With a bold visual and structural style, Andrey Konchalovsky gives the Nazi deathcamp movie an eternal twist, exploring the actions and motivations of three distinct people in the face of unspeakable horror. It's a difficult film, somewhat simplistic in its morality and pushy in its themes. But it has a visceral power that can't help but strike a chord.