On Chesil Beach
dir Dominic Cooke; with Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle 17/UK ***.
Author Ian McEwan adapts his own award-winning novel for the big screen, turning it into another beautifully produced story about those things that the English prefer not to talk about. Namely, class and sex. The film is both provocative and moving as it traces a relationship to a pivotal moment, and the two central characters are performed with raw honesty by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle.
Last Flag Flying
dir Richard Linklater; with Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston 17/US ****
Richard Linklater pays his respects to The Last Detail in a funny and sensitive road movie that hits the emotions without forcing them. It's neither a sequel nor remake to Hal Ashby's 1973 classic, but there are loud echoes. As the central trio, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne create vivid characters, middle-aged war veterans who have something important to say about patriotism and what it means to be a hero.
dir Jamie Thraves; with Aidan Gillen, Antonia Campbell-Hughes 17/UK ***
A third improvisational collaboration between Jamie Thraves and Aidan Gillen, this is a playful comedy about a television star who dives into a dark role in an effort to get over his divorce. It's a meandering, relaxed story assembled from a series of lively, witty scenes, some of which tap into some surprisingly disturbing emotions. Parts of the film feel random or indulgently stretched out, but it gets under the skin... FULL REVIEW >
dir-scr Michael Haneke; with Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant 17/Fr ****
This may be as close as we'll ever get to Michael Haneke lightening up. Although even if it's packed with offbeat wit and characters who verge on farce, there's no escaping that this is essentially a comedy about suicidal and murderous urges. Families don't get much more dysfunctional than the one depicted on-screen, and the film also taps into the current economic divide, being a story of the very wealthy in a place known for its population of desperate refugees.
dir Anne Fontaine; with Finnegan Oldfield, Catherine Salee 17/Fr ***.
The thoughtful story of a young artist's journey to self-expression, this film is sometimes brutally honest about the tension between so-called provincial attitudes and enlightened liberal sensibilities. The film may be in need of some judicial editing, but the material here is resonant and important. And it's also beautifully played by an intriguingly eclectic cast that includes Isabelle Huppert in a witty role as herself... FULL REVIEW >
Blade of the Immortal
dir Takashi Miike; with Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki 17/Jpn ***.
With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Japanese master Takashi Miike brings Hiroaki Samura's manga to life, using a heavy dose of sharp humour to undercut the nonstop grisliness. It's also a remarkably involving story that blurs the lines between good and evil by adding layers of complexity to the characters. It may essentially be a story of revenge with a hint of redemption thrown in, but it's also a classic tale very well told.