Benedetta is led by a wildly fun performance from Virginie Efira as a real-life 17th century lesbian nun. Equal parts funny, sensual and incendiary, it’s a committed work from director Paul Verhoeven — a master of tonal balance — even if its exploration of the war between body and spirit occasionally falls short.
A gorgeous black-and-white film that harkens back to several cinematic eras, Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth twists an old tale just enough to keep it fresh, but relies on tremendous lead performances by Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand to make the familiar feel exciting.
An unfortunately timely film, Flee uses animation primarily to sharpen the dangerous edges of its refugee story, and to capture the devastating physical and emotional toll of never-ending war. But in brief moments, the film acts as a spiritual balm, offering hints and possibilities of a world where Nawabi might one day be able to fully share himself with other people.
Sweet Girl is front-loaded with fun action, and it has a great performance by Jason Momoa as a widower seeking vengeance against a pharma CEO. But its story slowly loses steam, before being replaced by an entirely different movie with much sillier political messaging.
Like its doomed romantic pair — Marion Cotillard’s radiant stage actress and Adam Driver’s macabre comedian — Annette pours dreams, perversions, and self-fulfilling misery into its titular puppet-child, a beautiful creation that sings heavenly tunes in the darkest of moments.
As much CODA is a film about a hearing person’s relationship to deafness and Deaf culture, it’s just as much about deaf characters’ relationships to a hearing world, whose norms most hearing people take for granted, and whose obstacles can impact everything from labor to self-worth.
While it may not always pay off the tension it builds, the film’s story — about a woman seeking closure after her husband’s suicide — makes the lingering unknowability of romance feel just as unsettling as any supernatural force.
Gunn is much better suited to the material than either David Ayer or the trailer house that re-cut the previous film, though while the end result is gorier, funnier and occasionally more heartfelt, it doesn’t quite coalesce into something totally fun, or totally meaningful.
Pig subverts the expectations of the average revenge-thriller and accentuates the deep emotional scars that often underscore these stories. It features a measured, meticulous performance from Nicolas Cage.
A film that feels immersed in fog, and one that reserves even sunlight for vital moments, Holler is a gorgeously-textured exploration of the way ruthless corporatism trickles down through each layer of a country, and a system, until it falls on the shoulders of a young girl and obscures her future.
In the Heights moves smoothly between cinematic realism and the magic of the stage, in a defiant musical about what it means to belong, and what it means to be remembered. It is one of the most moving and joyful films this year.
A sequel that hopes to court Saw fans and mainstream audiences alike, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is likely to alienate them both. It’s a hollow imitation of the series, unable to meet its most basic visual and narrative expectations. It’s also a bad film in general, which tries to tell a socially relevant story that it can’t seem to handle.