It's a bumper week with Keira Knightley in The Aftermath, Irish horror The Hole in the Ground, wrestling true story Fighting with My Family and so much more.
The Aftermath ***1/2
Director James Kent's eminently handsome post-World War II period drama The Aftermath is a tasteful exploration of trauma and grief and how they can tear relationships apart.
The troubled lovers at the centre of this emotionally fraught story are Rachael (Keira Knightley) and her husband Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), a colonel with the British Army who has been charged with rebuilding the bomb-shattered city of Hamburg after the war.
After being reunited in Hamburg, the couple set off to live in a grand home that has been repossessed by the British Army. However, the pragmatic and magnanimous Lewis has made a grave error - he has allowed the house's previous German owners to share the property with them. Read our full review here.
Fighting with My Family ****
As electro punk duo Carter USM asked as far back as 1992, is wrestling fixed? They were being mischievous, of course, and sadly further songs about bears' toilet arrangements and the Pope's belief system failed to materialise.
So it is a tribute to writer and director Stephen Merchant's talent that he has taken this tale of a working class English girl's unlikely rise to fame in the WWE and made it into a very funny and emotional smackdown of a movie.
After all, Merchant's feel-good movie of hard knocks and self-belief is based on the true story of the Beavis family, a tightly-knit working class clan who ran a small-time wrestling league in Norwich, while fostering dreams of big ring fame in the soap opera meets cabaret of WWE. Read our full review here.
Foxtrot is a tightly-focused, slow-moving work of great subtlety. While clearly decrying war's sinister fall-out, it also manages to honour the memory of the young men who die, in this case, in defence of Israel.
Michael and Dafna Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler respectively) are in their apartment in Tel Aviv when the door buzzer sounds. The couple receive the terrible news that their young son, Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray), has lost his life in the line of duty.
That introductory scenario amounts to a modicum of plot detail, but there is not much more that can actually be revealed without spoiling this exquisitely-delivered tale, enacted through Hebrew dialogue, with subtitles in English. Read our full review here.
The Hole in the Ground ****
Having made a Utah January even colder than usual, The Hole in the Ground returns from its midnight victory lap at the Sundance Film Festival to put it up to Irish audiences.
While the people at home are always the hardest to please - especially the horror hardcore - naysayers here should prove to be as few and far between as across the Atlantic.
This feel-bad debut from director Lee Cronin takes that dream of the fresh start in the country and turns it into every mother's nightmare. Read our full review here.
An Engineer Imagines *****
The late Peter Rice was an Irish visionary who brought flair and imagination to his engineering work on some of the most iconic and challenging buildings constructed in the 20th century.
An Engineer Imagines, a new film about Rice's life, is as much about art as it is about engineering. Indeed, it is hardly technical at all in its proceedings, looking more to highlight the playful, risk-taking side of the bold engineer.
Foreign friends and collaborators - one of whom is moved to tears as he recalls Rice - pay tribute to their friend and colleague who grew up at 52 Castle Road, Dundalk. They recall the Irish charm and the glint in the eye of this burly, curly-haired Louth-man. Rice had the ability to jump off a cliff, knowing he would find a way of grappling back up, one of his friends remembers. Read our full review here.
What They Had ***
This rather dry feature debut from Elizabeth Chomko is set in a wintry Chicago at the fag end of Christmas. It is a tale of family discord and tension at a moment of reckoning, but also a study of memory. It is centred on an elderly husband as he stoically tries to deal with his wife's Alzheimer's, while their two children play a tug of love over what's best for their ailing mother.
A grizzled and dead-pan Michael Shannon plays son Nick; Hilary Swank is careworn, unhappily married daughter Bridget, and Richard Forster plays their curmudgeonly ex-army father Bert.
But it is Blythe Danner as fading mother Ruth who is the heart and soul of this slightly soapy affair. She brings light, childlike innocence and humour to every scene as her loved ones rage at each other. Her mind may be going, but Ruth is still the rock and heart of this unhappy brood. Read our full review here.
Set in a sordid, hidden Strasbourg, at some variance with the venerable image, Sauvage features a mesmerising performance from Félix Maritaud. He plays 22-year old rent boy Léo, who is looking for love and security of a kind behind that tough, insouciant exterior.
The story veers expertly from gay disco scenes to tough encounters in the bedroom, to moving glimpses of Léo in a vulnerable state, revelatory glances into the state of his torn soul and corroded sexuality.
Sauvage has some of the gritty pathos of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's classic, L'Enfant, which won the Palme d'Or in 2005, and with its protagonist could perhaps be the continued story of the young boy in 400 Coups. Read our full review here.