The Shape of Water
dir Guillermo del Toro; with Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins 17/US ****
Guillermo del Toro lets his imagination run wild with this engaging and also rather dark romantic adventure. It's a riot of clever production design, witty dialog and heartfelt emotion that carries the audience on a journey along with the vivid characters. The whimsical family-movie tone sits a bit oddly alongside the film's resolutely adult-oriented touches, but for grown-ups this is a fairy tale full of wonder.
dir-scr Lucrecia Martel; with Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Lola Duenas 17/Arg **.
This is a fairly difficult movie even by the standards of adventurous Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel. An existential odyssey based on the 1956 novel by Antonio Di Benedetto, it simply refuses to coalesce into any kind of sensible narrative as the title character's life becomes a swirling nightmare of bureaucracy and cross-cultural messiness. And that's actually the point. At least it's fascinating, beautifully shot and acted, and packed with witty satire.
dir Ziad Doueiri; with Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha 17/Leb ***
A terrific personal Lebanese drama is somewhat swamped by much bigger issues, as filmmaker Ziad Doueiri floods the story with the complexities of the nation's history and politics. Everything in this film is important, but when they're all overlaid on top of a courtroom drama, it tips the balance away from the more resonant story of two men having a face-off over a deeply personal clash.
dir Ai Weiwei; with Ai Weiwei, Boris Cheshirkov 17/Ger ***.
At an epic two and a half hours, this documentary is a little exhausting to sit through. But the topic is hugely compelling for anyone who feels compassion about other people. It's a film about refugees, and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei cleverly uses a variety of cameras to visit camps around the world, capturing both the individual impact in specific stories and the global scale as millions are displaced around the world. Even without using voiceover narration, the amount of information in here is astonishing.
> Tomorrow's screening schedule includes Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in Our Souls at Night, Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99, Andrew Haigh's Lean on Pete and Samuel Maoz's Foxtrot.