Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville light up cinemas this weekend in Ordinary Love.
Ordinary Love ****1/2
Directing duo Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn's (interviewed above and pictured with Lesley Manville) third feature is far from ordinary.
Armed with an incandescent screenplay and unforgettable performances, Ordinary Love is affecting in its own quiet way, as it showcases a deeply moving portrait of a marriage tested after a cancer diagnosis.
A powerfully understated performance by Lesley Manville elevates a story we think we've seen before into a truly touching, poignant drama, while Liam Neeson's unforced charm brings a surprisingly buoyant and profoundly moving edge to what could have been a mawkish character study. We root for their happiness even though we know only heartache and challenges lie ahead. Read our full review here.
Motherless Brooklyn **1/2
Motherless Brooklyn has all the elements to make a great crime drama, but it meanders its way into the meh.
The film was a passion project for writer, director, producer and star Edward Norton and he takes the lead role of private investigator Lionel Essrog, a man who becomes set on getting to the bottom of the suspicious killing of his friend and mentor. Whether it's a passion or vanity project, is up for debate.
Set in 1950s New York, but based on a novel of the same name set in the 1990s, Norton goes noir and though the storyline itself, and the look and feel of the film, promise something great, the execution doesn't hit the mark. Read our full review here.
Honey Boy ***1/2
Shia LaBeouf buffs his crown as one of Hollywood's trickiest maverick (not that there are too many of those anymore) in his new close to home semi-autobiographical movie. He takes the lead role of James, a washed-up rodeo clown, former felon and full time fantasist, a character based on LeBeouf’s own wayward father.
This unsavoury figure, who looks like he’s just stepped off the set of Easy Rider, Is "managing" the career of his child actor son, 12-year-old Otis (a truly superb Noah Jupe), another parallel with LeBeouf’s former life as a child star who went on to blockbuster success and then rejected it all and entered the free fall that has fed his recent creative energies. Read our full review here.
So Long, My Son *****
So Long, My Son, whose original title in Mandarin is Di Jiu Tian Chang, is an easily accessible, beautifully-wrought work of cinema whose universal human story of heartbreak and tragedy is spellbinding.
This remarkable film explores the consequences, in a thirty-year span, of China's population measure, the One-Child Policy, which prevailed from 1979 to 2013. Two young couples, who are such firm friends that they consider themselves brothers and sisters, drift apart following two episodes which fracture the relationship. Each of the couples has boys who are as close as twins.
All is relatively hunky dory until one of the boys is drowned while the boys are swimming with pals at a local reservoir. Such is director and co-screen-writer Wang Xiaoshuai's narrative guile, that the details of how the drowning occurred are withheld until the film's moving coda. Yet the details prove crucial to the resolution of the saga, which at certain moments has the impact of an epic tale. Read our full review here.
The Last Right ** 1/2
The Irish and death. Death and the Irish. It's a mix of reverence and gallows humour that needs to tread a fine line and one which writer-director Aoife Crehan tackles in her likeable but misfiring debut feature.
A case of mistaken identity sees the corpse of an old man transported across the length of Ireland, from Clonakilty to Rathlin Island, in a biodegradable coffin festooned with a painting of budgies in flight (chortle) by a mismatched trio thrown together by circumstance.
Taking the cadaver to its appointed burial ground are the motley crew of returning prodigal son Padraig (Michiel Huisman), who's made it big as a lawyer in New York; his autistic younger brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley), and Mary (Niamh Algar), a free-spirited young trainee mortician who seems to be going along for the ride. Read our full review here.
The Nightingale ****1/2
"You don't want trouble, but sometimes trouble wants you..."
Rarely has a line captured a film so perfectly as this chilling retort at the start of The Nightingale. It also sums up the story's grip on its three stars - and what awaits audiences who take the harrowing journey with them.
This rampage of revenge marks another reckoning in Australian cinema and sees The Fall's Aisling Franciosi deliver a career-making performance as Clare, an Irish convict on the hunt for Hawkins (Sam Claflin), the British officer who has destroyed her life. Helping Clare is Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), an Aboriginal tracker who shows her a way to reconnect with her own humanity as they pick their steps through Tasmania in 1825. Read our full review here.
Shooting The Mafia ****
For nearly 20 years in the Seventies and Eighties, photographer Letizia Battaglia was the reluctant but driven chronicler of the true savagery of the Mafia in her native Palermo.
Like a paparazzo in reverse, she would arrive at the scene of murders and record in stark black and white the blood-splattered victims - often women and children - of the most heinous crimes of the Corleonesi Mafia. Read our full review here.
The Biggest Little Farm ****
Friends told John and Molly Chester that attempting to farm in harmony with nature would be reckless, if not impossible. But the couple cheerfully bought a farm of effectively dead soil in Ventura County in California, as this charming, offbeat film documents.
It all started really with Todd, the Chesters' beloved dog. He just wouldn't stop barking in Molly and John's small LA apartment and eventually the couple faced an eviction notice. They bought a farm so that Todd could run and bark free. As good a reason as any, surely, to head for the back roads of Ventura County.
The film is so companionable in John's unrelenting grin-and-bear-it voiceover, and so lovable with Molly's all-American positivity that, heck, you even want to know how they got Todd in the first place. Read our full review here.
Knives Out *
Knives Out is a trite, pale comedy that tries to be as infantile as it can be within the bounds of adult entertainment. There really is no other way of putting it, without, er, putting the knife in.
It's a murder-mystery modelled self-consciously on Agatha Christie's country mansion, sent up in exaggerated hamming from the likes of Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig and Chris Evans - all doing their best to chew up the scenery.
It's not their fault, by no means; it's just a silly idea in the first place and the incongruous Christie-style venerability in an era of smartphone, CCTV, computers and the tired old paraphernalia of our day. But that's precisely where the humour lies, you say... Read our full review here.