Director/screenwriter Ash Mayfair on the set of The Third Wife, 2017. (Photo: Cleveland International Film Festival)
Here are thirty-five new movies due to be released in theaters or via other viewing platforms this May, all of which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.
MAY 1 (in theaters & streaming on Netflix): Knock Down the House (dir./DP: Rachel Lears) – Film Society of Lincoln Center synopsis: “Rachel Lears’s remarkable documentary follows four female politicians as they challenged local Democratic incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections. They include the new face of the party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then a struggling candidate from the Bronx no less passionate or charismatic than she is now; Cori Bush, a former nurse inspired to run for office shortly after the murder of Michael Brown; and Paula Jean Swearengin and Amy Vilela, both motivated to improve communities blighted by health problems and poverty. Observing a flash point in American history with confidence and unfettered access, Knock Down the House is an emotional portrait of the changing profile of America’s political hopefuls, which effectively details all facets of the grassroots campaign trail.”
MAY 3 (streaming on Netflix): Alles Ist Gut (aka All Good) (dir. Eva Trobisch) – Variety’s Locarno International Film Festival review by Guy Lodge: “When we speak of someone ‘refusing to be a victim,’ it’s usually in praise of their resolve and resilience: It’s a refusal that asserts an identity stronger than the worst adversity you’ve experienced. There’s undeniable power in that, but at what point does defiance twist into denial? This is the fine precipice on which German writer-director Eva Trobisch’s searing debut feature All Good balances its frayed-nerve drama — after a self-possessed young woman is raped by a man she hardly knows, and chooses to continue her life without acknowledging that fact. A fascinating flip on themes contentiously raised in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, underpinned by a breakout performance of raw candor by Aenne Schwarz, this is grown-up filmmaking of sharp, subtle daring.
“Written as a graduation project at the London Film School and a worthy victor in Locarno’s first-feature competition, Trobisch’s finely poised film will likely prompt auspicious comparisons to the early work of Maren Ade as it burns through the festival circuit. Trobisch’s narrative voice, however, is very much her own, with savage deadpan humor cutting into its head-on articulation of everyday human horrors. All Good — a seemingly bland title that turns bitingly resonant in context — would inspire vigorous post-screening debate even if it weren’t arriving in the heat of the #MeToo movement. As it is, arthouse distributor interest should be amped up by the film’s blazing (if hardly momentary) topicality.
“We all know that ‘I’m fine’ is a statement that can indistinctly cover any number of personal conditions, from genuine contentment to raging inner torment. At the film’s outset, however, you’d have little reason to believe Janne (Schwarz), a thirtysomething publishing professional, is anything but. We meet her as she’s cheerfully renovating a dilapidated, newly bought house with her boyfriend Piet (Andreas Döhler), a stand-up guy with whom she has quiet, comfortable chemistry.
“From that opening picture of domestic bliss, the cracks begin to widen. They’ve recently declared bankruptcy after a joint business venture failed, the resultant stress of which might explain Janne’s uncharacteristically uninhibited behavior at a college reunion, where she drinks heavily and gets chatting with gangly, socially awkward stranger Martin (Hans Löw, cutting a very different figure from his lead in the recent Cannes premiere In My Room).
“What she intends as innocuous flirtation, however, he crassly misreads as a sexual advance; when she rebuffs him, he rapes her, in a stark, unsensationalized scene that’s wince-inducingly painful to watch. Janne is so stunned (‘Are you serious?’ she asks her attacker as it happens) that she almost forgets to be angry. And perhaps, she decides, that’s easier: Once the shock subsides, she attempts to pick herself up with no visible disruption, not even telling Piet about her ordeal. It’s an already fragile plan that collapses when she takes a job with a former associate, only to find herself working alongside Martin.
“Though she suggests to him, too, that they pretend nothing has happened, it’s an increasingly hard lie to live: As her mental composure deteriorates, her personal and professional lives plunge into simultaneous freefall. Working in a mode of unornamented naturalism, with no score and a preponderance of tight, peering closeups, Trobisch paints an unstinting portrait of unreleased trauma — one marked by deep compassion for its scarred female protagonist, but a complex amoral stance on the spiralling, self-harming irrationality of her behavior.
“It’s a nuanced characterization brought to seething, silently volatile life by Schwarz’s tremendous interpretation. While the actress recently made an impression as the eponymous author’s wife in Austrian festival favorite Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, this is a potentially career-altering lightning bolt of a turn, alive with intuitive, revealing body language and expressive verbal tics — as the steaming fury inside her occasionally forces its way past her painstaking self-containment. It’s the kind of fearless emotional spin-cycle with which Schwarz’s compatriots Nina Hoss or Sandra Hüller might have stunned us earlier in their careers. Even as an ambiguous final act arrests Janne’s freefall for the comparative relief of psychological limbo, director and actress are plainly on the same purposeful, zero-compromise page; All Good feels the urgent benefits of their combined conviction.”
MAY 3 (in theaters & airing on HBO at 8:00 PM), MAY 4 (HBO on demand): At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (dir. Erin Lee Carr) – HBO synopsis: “For more than two decades Dr. Larry Nassar was the osteopathic physician for the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, as well as a physician at Michigan State University (MSU). During that time, he sexually abused hundreds of female athletes.
“Based on years of research by producers Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich (Munich ‘72 and Beyond) and featuring brave testimonials from the athletes at the center of the story, director Erin Lee Carr’s (Mommy Dead and Dearest and the upcoming I Love You, Now Die) powerful documentary, At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, reveals a dangerous system that prioritized winning over everything else, including protecting young female athletes. Through interviews with dozens of survivors, as well as coaches, lawyers and journalists, the film exposes an environment in which young women spent their youth competing for victory on a world stage, juxtaposed against a culture where abuse was hidden, and lives were forever damaged.”
MAY 3 (in theaters & on VOD): Bardo Blues (dir. Marcia Kimpton with co-dirs. Mark Haining and Justin McAleece) – Roxie Theater synopsis: “Set in Thailand, Bardo Blues follows Jack (Stephen McClintic) as he struggles to learn the truth about the mother that abandoned him and his own reason for existing. Weaving spiritual awakenings and soulful struggle, Bardo Blues will leave you questioning everything you think you know about who you are, where you came from and where you’re going.”
MAY 3: Decade of Fire (dirs. Gretchen Hildebran and Vivian Vázquez Irizarry) – Metrograph synopsis: “We all know the official story of South Bronx blight in the 1970s—’Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning’ and so on—but borough native Vazquez’s vital documentary tells another side of the tale, uncovering government policies of methodical negligence that abandoned Black and Latino neighborhoods, leaving them to wither and their residents to scatter, those left behind conveniently taking the blame for the destruction. A cold case investigation by a filmmaker who lived through it all, naming the true culprits who were trying to kill these neighborhoods and explaining why—and also a touching testimony to those who survived their baptism by fire, indefatigably remaining to build anew.”
MAY 3 (streaming on Netflix): Despite Everything (aka A pesar de todo) (dir. Gabriela Tagliavini) – Netflix synopsis: “After their mother’s death, four sisters (Blanca Suárez, Amaia Salamanca, Belén Cuesta, Macarena García) learn a shocking family secret and embark on an adventure to discover the truth about their genealogy.”
MAY 3: Sweetheart (aka Mon Bébé) (dir. Lisa Azuelos) – AMC Theatres synopsis: “Héloïse (Sandrine Kiberlain) is a mother of three. Her youngest daughter, Jade (Thaïs Alessandrin), has just turned eighteen and will soon be leaving the nest to pursue her studies in Canada. As Jade’s departure approaches, Héloïse reminisces of their shared past, a tight bond between mother and daughter. Dreading this separation, Héloïse takes on the role of a filmmaker and attempts, with her iPhone in hand, to capture their last moments together. Her urgent desire to film these fleeting moments consumes her to such a point that it prevents her from reaching the complicity and happiness she has always managed to share with her daughter, her ‘baby.'”
MAY 3 (in theaters & on VOD): Tell It to the Bees (dir. Annabel Jankel) – The Hollywood Reporter’s Toronto International Film Festival review by Leslie Felperin: “A wee bit on the mushy side, which could actually be an asset commercially, Tell It to the Bees casts Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger as secret lovers in a small Scottish town not long after World War II. Adapted from Fiona Shaw’s book of the same name by sister screenwriters Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth, this British production comes directed by Annabel Jankel, whose résumé includes co-creating TV character Max Headroom as well as directing the Meg Ryan-Dennis Quaid remake of noir classic D.O.A. and computer game-to-film adaptation Super Mario Bros. and lots of music-related filmmaking.
“Given that eclectic background, Jankel seems a slightly odd fit for this period-set romantic drama, although her visual effects skills must have been helpful for supervising the creation of a swarm of digital bees. The result should appeal to audiences with a soft spot for stories about plucky, convention-defying women falling in love while wearing floaty, vintage tea dresses — and keeping bees. Some might mutter about the industry’s preference for lesbian-themed movies in which the leads just so happen to be thin, femme and pretty, but it’s hard to dislike this pleasant, earnest work.
“In a Scottish town big enough to support a fabric mill but small enough that gossip spreads fast, pretty Englishwoman Lydia Weekes (Grainger) has found a precarious place for herself after marrying into the community and bearing a son, Charlie (Gregor Selkirk), now about 11 or 12. Unfortunately, Lydia’s husband Robert, a war veteran, has gone astray and now has a fancy woman he’s decided to move in with, leaving Lydia to cope largely on her own, albeit with some grudging childcare help from Robert’s widowed sister Pam (the protean Kate Dickie). Pam’s own daughter Annie (Lauren Lyle), nearly out of her teens and with a bit of a wild streak, has been stepping out with George (Leo Hoyte-Egan), a nice but barely developed character who happens to be of color. Oddly and rather ahistorically, George’s ethnicity is never remarked upon by anyone, which inadvertently flatters the townspeople by positing they’re capable of one kind of tolerance but not another, as the plot soon proves.
“For it transpires that Dr. Jean Markham (Paquin, assaying a Scottish accent near perfectly for the perhaps the first time since she won a best supporting actress Oscar for The Piano as a child), the new general practitioner in town, once caused a bit of a scandal as a teen herself when she was caught kissing another girl. Now back home in the wake of her father’s demise after years away at university and elsewhere, she keeps a low profile, living in her father’s large house and tending to the swarm of bees that comes with the place. An old friend, wealthy toff bachelor Jim (Steven Robertson), offers to marry her but, knowing it would never work, she declines. However, when a minor injury of Charlie’s introduces her to Lydia, the attraction is palpable. Moreover, Charlie is entranced by the bee swarm, and at Jean’s suggestion, in accordance with local folk wisdom, he starts telling his secrets to the bees regularly, hence the title.
“The time the young screenwriters Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth have spent so far working in television (including the upcoming second season of ‘Killing Eve’) is palpable in the tidy storytelling here, which braids all the strands in neatly, leading up to a finale where Jean must help out Annie with her medical skills after a botched forced abortion (a timely subject) while Lydia, now lovers with Jean, is confronted by her unpleasant, homophobic ex-husband. Even the bees get involved in the ensuing ruck, resulting in a lot of cross-cut drama as everything, somewhat improbably, all kicks off at once.
“Nevertheless, despite such melodramatic touches, the film demonstrates a good ear for period dialogue and, to an extent, period attitudes with a conclusion that suits the challenges of the times. There’s also a sensitivity to the nuances of class difference in the era, expressed subtly through Andy Harris’ production design and Ali Mitchell’s costumes, offering a lovely mood board study in warm ochres, heathery pinks and misty grays.
“In terms of performance, Grainger’s natural effervescence blends well with Paquin’s nervier persona, and they come across as a plausible, if somewhat idealized couple. The love scenes are genuinely sexy, just explicit enough to be credible without showing too much skin, thus risking a higher rating. This is no Mustard Yellow Is the Warmest Color — which, again, will probably make this more marketable, especially for nostalgic, open-minded older viewers.”
MAY 8: The Silence of Others (dirs. Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo) (DP: Almudena Carracedo) – Film Forum synopsis: “What if in the ’60s you were sadistically tortured for your political beliefs – and the man responsible (Antonio González Pacheco, aka ‘Billy the Kid’) was now your neighbor? The bloody Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was followed by the Franco dictatorship that ended only with his death in 1975 – after which a law granted amnesty for crimes committed throughout this period. The Silence of Others tackles the legal/political questions that this enforced obliviousness has created, and equally compelling, the existential conundrum of living in a nation in which no one has been charged with the murder of hundreds of thousands, buried in more than 2,000 mass graves. A new movement in Spain confronts these hard truths. With the rise of authoritarian regimes around the world – and with human rights abuses being committed on our own border – this film could not be more timely.”
MAY 8 (in theaters), MAY 10 (streaming on Netflix): Wine Country (dir. Amy Poehler) – The Landmark at 57 West synopsis: “Wine Country is a hilarious and heartfelt comedy directed by Amy Poehler. In honor of Rebecca’s (Rachel Dratch) 50th birthday, Abby (Poehler) plans a scenic Napa getaway with their best, longtime friends. Workaholic Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), post-op Val (Paula Pell), homebody Jenny (Emily Spivey), and weary mom Naomi (Maya Rudolph) are equally sold on the chance to relax and reconnect. Yet as the alcohol flows, real world uncertainties intrude on the punchlines and gossip, and the women begin questioning their friendships and futures. Tina Fey, Jason Schwartzman and Cherry Jones co-star.”
MAY 10: The Biggest Little Farm (dir. John Chester) (DPs: John Chester, Mallory Cunningham, Benji Lanpher, Chris Martin and Kyle Romanek) – Angelika Film Center synopsis: “A testament to the immense complexity of nature, The Biggest Little Farm follows two dreamers and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land. John and Molly Chester make a choice that takes them out of the city and onto 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, naively endeavoring to build one of the most diverse farms of its kind in complete coexistence with nature. The land they’ve chosen, however, is utterly depleted of nutrients and suffering from a brutal drought. The film chronicles eight years of daunting work and outsize idealism as they attempt to create the utopia they seek, planting 10,000 orchard trees and over 200 different crops, and bringing in animals of every kind. When the farm’s ecosystem finally begins to reawaken, so does the Chesters’ hope – but as their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they realize that to survive they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and of life itself.”
MAY 10 (in theaters), MAY 17 (VOD): Charlie Says (dir. Mary Harron) – IFC Center synopsis: “Years after the shocking murders that made the name Charles Manson synonymous with pure evil, the three women who killed for him—Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón)—remain under the spell of the infamous cult leader (Matt Smith). Confined to an isolated cellblock in a California penitentiary, the trio seem destined to live out the rest of their lives under the delusion that their crimes were part of a cosmic plan—until empathetic graduate student Karlene Faith (Merritt Wever) is enlisted to rehabilitate them. Convinced the prisoners are not the inhuman monsters the world believes them to be, Karlene begins the arduous process of breaking down the psychological barriers erected by Manson. But are the women ready to confront the horror of what they did? Boundary pushing auteur Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol) presents a provocative new perspective on one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century.”
MAY 10 (streaming on Netflix): In Family I Trust (aka Gente que viene y bah) (dir. Patricia Font) – Netflix synopsis: “After her partner cheats on her, an architect (Clara Lago) returns to her hometown to reassess her life with the help of her eccentric family.”
MAY 10: Poms (dir. Zara Hayes) – Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Poms is an uplifting comedy about Martha (played by Diane Keaton) a woman who moves into a retirement community and starts a cheerleading squad with her fellow residents, Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), Olive (Pam Grier) and Alice (Rhea Perlman), proving that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Phyllis Somerville, Charlie Tahan, Alisha Boe and Bruce McGill also star. Zara Hayes directed the script by Shane Atkinson. Producing are Kelly McCormick (Atomic Blonde); Alex Saks (Book Club); Mad as Birds Films’ Andy Evans, Ade Shannon, Celyn Jones, Sean Marley and Rose Pictures’ Rose Ganguzza.”
MAY 15: The Third Wife (dir. Ash Mayfair) (DP: Chananun Chotrungroj) – Film Forum synopsis: “Born and raised in Vietnam, Ash Mayfair has drawn upon her familial history (both grandmother and great-grandmother were in arranged marriages at a young age) to create the fictitious 19th century drama of 14-year-old May, who becomes the third wife of an older man. With a largely female cast and crew, The Third Wife portrays the strictures of patriarchy, the rules by which a woman can gain some degree of prestige and power (as the mother of a son), and the consequences any deviance will engender. But most of all, this is a story of emotional bonding among three generations of women, in a setting that is both exquisitely beautiful and painfully repressive. As with the lives of Chinese concubines in Raise the Red Lantern, the ostensible comfort and elegance of this world of women is both richly seductive and fearfully poisonous.”
MAY 16 (streaming on Netflix): Good Sam (dir. Kate Melville) – Deadline synopsis by Denise Petski: “Netflix has set May 16 for the premiere of Good Sam, a feature based on the mystery book series of the same name by Dete Meserve, starring Tiya Sircar. Kate Melville is directing from a script by Meserve and Teena Booth.
“The film follows intrepid TV news reporter Kate Bradley (Sircar) who is assigned to uncover the identity of a mysterious Good Samaritan—Good Sam—who has been anonymously leaving $100,000 cash gifts on the doorsteps of seemingly random New Yorkers. As interest in the extraordinary gifts sweeps across the country, Kate seeks to unravel the identity of Good Sam and the powerful and unexpected reasons behind the extraordinary gifts.”
MAY 17: Aniara (dirs. Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja) (DP: Sophie Winqvist) – The Film Stage’s Toronto International Film Festival review by Jared Mobarak: “So much of our desire to exist is based in control. We have the ability to move our homes, restart careers, and work towards a future of our choosing. No matter how difficult things become, there’s always a hope for better or an avenue towards change. It’s only when we’re cornered without an exit that we start to let our fears rule us rather than the infinite possibilities in our grasp. We search for meaning and answers, struggling to reconcile that happiness may have always been an illusion to mask the pain. And it can disappear in an instant — one hiccup along a path of tenuous certainty throwing perfect plans into chaotic turmoil. Suddenly we can no longer take the reins of our circumstances. They begin governing us.
“There’s no bigger example of this truth than our premonitions of apocalypse. Beyond religious scripture lies the science that we aren’t long for this universe — at least not in context with its breadth of time and space. We recognize previous extinction points and realize ours will arrive sooner or later whether from a dying star or our own steady dismantling of those intrinsic properties for which Earth seemed to have in abundance. Our art has attempted to give shape to what that desperation will look like either via our futility to prevent it or our technological advancement to cheat death and inevitably destroy another world too. One such example is Nobel laureate Harry Martinson’s 1956 epic poem Aniara, which Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja now bring to life.
“The title shares its name with a city-size spacecraft ferrying humans from Earth to Mars in barely three weeks. It’s a routine trip that’s never run into problems with many passengers already having family on the red planet to greet them upon arrival. But there’s a first time for everything as a small field of debris forces Captain Chefone (Arvin Kananian) off course. Unfortunately a screw breaches their hull anyway, pushing their nuclear fuel supply to critical mass. Expelling it may save them for the moment, but without it they cannot steer. So despite having enough self-sustaining electricity and algae (for air and food), there’s no way to return onto their necessary trajectory. Either a celestial body interrupts their path to slingshot back or they simply drift forever.
“How will everyone react? Chefone does his best to assuage fears by saying it’ll be two years tops before they can make their way back, but that’s enough of an increase from three weeks to throw people into hyperventilation regardless. Some find it impossible to cope while others realize living on Aniara with its many activities might actually be better than a dying Earth or a bleak Mars. The latter don’t have anyone or anything awaiting them and would have been continuing aboard the craft for the next ferry anyway, so why not make due and work towards calming those who can’t? MR (Emelie Jonsson) epitomizes this role as supervisor for MIMA — a spiritual, living tool used to mine consumer memories and recreate the serenity of their past.
“Maybe a handful of people cared to experience what MIMA had to offer before the catastrophe. They didn’t need that sort of escape from the infinite blackness of space because they had the distractions of shopping mall boutiques, alcohol, and games. Once the reality that this vehicle was in fact a prison, however, passengers flocked to MIMA as though it was a drug to shroud their despair with manufactured euphoria. Acting as a transactional service of sorts, this machine can only handle that suffering for so long before it too acknowledges the fruitlessness of its mission. Eventually it will see how the pain it was being fed could never cease, questioning its own life in kind. And without its images those lost souls would know nothing but misery.
“What follows is the devolution of mankind to its basest desires. Think High-Rise in space, the existential crises of being trapped in this cage feeding anxieties until sanity becomes hard-pressed to sustain. Chefone finds himself consumed by the power his position as captain affords — the trepidation and fear of mutiny at the start transforming into an entitled confidence as though a king lording over his court. Cults begin to rise — one built by a mother who was inconsolable at the news she wouldn’t be attending her son’s fourth birthday party (Jennie Silfverhjelm). And even those who appear too jaded to be affected (Bianca Cruzeiro’s logistics specialist Isagel and Anneli Martini’s unnamed astronomer) find themselves slowly losing their grip on life’s meaning against the vastness of space.
“We therefore gravitate towards MR as the single inhabitant of this ship who hasn’t completely lost her head. But just as Martini speaks about how one can’t know why his/her relationship ended while still inside it, perhaps MR was losing her grip along with the others and we simply didn’t notice. Every chapter ticks off days, weeks, and years through an instantaneous cut to black and all we see is a new world vastly different from the old. So while appearances may not seem drastically changed, underneath smiles and laughter lies a river of dread hidden with varying success. Hope can still rear its head and breathe fresh life into those still remaining, but it often only leaves them more defeated once its promise is left unfulfilled.
“Kågerman and Lilja bring Martinson’s poem to cinemas with a stark beauty both in its sci-fi production design and emotionally wrought performances. They present how life is meaningless without a destination — how we’d rather numb ourselves to the helplessness of our situation than embrace the little control we retain. It’s a fascinating character study since Earth is itself a complex self-contained ecosystem floating in space. What then makes Aniara so different? Or does the growing sense of defeatist malaise manifest precisely because it’s not? Perhaps this spacecraft is merely providing a glimpse at humanity’s unpreventable demise relative to size and population. This is centuries of mankind’s brightest dreams dissolving into dust. We’re such a miniscule part of the universe that survival will always prove just out of reach.”
MAY 17: Ask for Jane (dir. Rachel Carey) (DP: Caitlin Machak) – MyCinema synopsis: “Based on a true story. Chicago, 1969 – Imagine a world where abortion is punishable by prison, and getting birth control is nearly impossible. As a result, women die every day from taking matters into their own hands. When a pregnant student at the University of Chicago attempts to take her own life, Rose (Cait Cortelyou) and Janice (Cody Horn) find a doctor willing to perform the procedure in secret to save the woman’s life. Sparked by this experience, Rose and Janice form the Jane Collective: a secret organization to help other women obtain safe and illegal abortions. Operating like a spy network, complete with blindfolds and code names, the Janes help thousands of women – but they can’t hide from the police forever.”
MAY 17: A Dog’s Journey (dir. Gail Mancuso) – Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Some friendships transcend lifetimes. In A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to the heartwarming global hit A Dog’s Purpose, beloved dog Bailey finds his new destiny and forms an unbreakable bond that will lead him, and the people he loves, to places they never imagined.
“Bailey (voiced again by Josh Gad) is living the good life on the Michigan farm of his ‘boy,’ Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Ethan’s wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). He even has a new playmate: Ethan and Hannah’s baby granddaughter, CJ. The problem is that CJ’s mom, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), decides to take CJ away. As Bailey’s soul prepares to leave this life for a new one, he makes a promise to Ethan to find CJ and protect her at any cost. Thus begins Bailey’s adventure through multiple lives filled with love, friendship and devotion as he, CJ (Kathryn Prescott), and CJ’s best friend Trent (Henry Lau) experience joy and heartbreak, music and laughter, and few really good belly rubs.
“Directed by Emmy winner Gail Mancuso (TV’s Modern Family), A Dog’s Journey is produced by Gavin Polone (A Dog’s Purpose), and written by W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon, and Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky, based on the best-selling novel by Cameron.”
MAY 17: The Souvenir (dir. Joanna Hogg) – Time Out’s Sundance Film Festival review by Joshua Rothkopf: “A cinematic memoir of once-in-a-decade emotional precision and ambition, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir does many things so exquisitely, it’s hard to know where to begin. Hogg, a veteran British TV and feature director with a distinctly intimate style, graduated from film school in the 1980s; her thesis project starred a then-unknown Tilda Swinton (already magnetic) as a character whose obsession with fashion results in a glamorous plunge into a magazine spread. Now, completing a cosmic circle, Hogg casts the Oscar-winning actor’s daughter, Honor Swinton-Byrne, to play an autobiographical version of herself as a young film student peering through spring-loaded Bolex cameras and awakening to the pleasures and heartaches of early ’80s London. (Mama Swinton is on hand too, as Hogg’s elegant, concerned mother.)
“To watch Swinton-Byrne’s 24-year-old Julie—angelically innocent, soft in voice, curious, a touch embarrassed by her Knightsbridge privilege—is to make the kind of immediate heart-to-heart connection with an actor that only the movies can broker. (Call Me by Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet was another.) Julie is still childlike enough to shower kisses on the family dog, but she’s turning serious, typing out her script ideas, interviewing earnestly with the graying, judgmental professors, mixing it up during discussions of Psycho. The world of film school, a crucible of naïveté and competition, has never been presented with quite as much clarity as Hogg musters here; the director is also self-deprecating enough to show herself as an awkward amateur, bumping into the lighting equipment. Her instinct is to let Swinton-Byrne fill these scenes with thoughtfulness, a call that pays off beautifully.
“And still, that’s not nearly the half of what The Souvenir is. An older man, Anthony (Tom Burke, wryly funny while charting a devastating descent), enters into Julie’s life, first as a worldly adviser and spouter of pretentious come-ons—’We don’t know what the inner machinations of the heart are,’ he murmurs—then as a sharer of books and a bed. Their relationship blooms with respectful sweetness, so it’s a shock when, at a dinner party, the host (a perfectly preening Richard Ayoade, clicking the entire movie into place in a single pivotal scene) leans over to Julie and confides, ‘You don’t seem druggy to me.’ He’s honestly curious about how it works between a ‘habitual heroin user’ and a ‘trainee Rotarian.’ We’re thrown as much as Julie is. For all of Anthony’s surface charms, he’s changed in our eyes.
“Hogg then dives into what might have been a fairly traditional junkie drama, but she’s blessed by a unique sense of compassion that stems from personal betrayal. Even though Stéphane Collonge’s gorgeous production design is decked out in the soft pinks and whites of a 1980 bedroom (there’s also a righteous soundtrack of XTC, Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson), the film as a whole squirms with self-destructive tension. The couple escapes for a Venice vacation, but despite their fancy-dress excursions and an accordion wafting in the air, Julie is in tears, sensing that something is off. Swinton-Byrne and Burke are magnificent in these unraveling scenes, tender and exposed, and though we flinch protectively for the teller of this tale, Hogg turns her story into a gift of empathy. A sequel is already in the works; when it arrives, you’ll still be wrecked by this one. While it’s unspooling, The Souvenir feels like the only film in the world—the only one that matters.”
MAY 17: The Sun Is Also a Star (dir. Ry Russo-Young) (DP: Autumn Durald Arkapaw) – Warner Bros. Pictures synopsis: “College-bound romantic Daniel Bae and Jamaica-born pragmatist Natasha Kingsley meet—and fall for each other—over one magical day amidst the fervor and flurry of New York City. Sparks immediately fly between these two strangers, who might never have met had fate not given them a little push. But will fate be enough to take these teens from star-crossed to lucky in love? With just hours left on the clock in what looks to be her last day in the U.S., Natasha is fighting against her family’s deportation as fiercely as she’s fighting her budding feelings for Daniel, who is working just as hard to convince her they are destined to be together. A modern-day story about finding love against all odds, The Sun Is Also a Star explores whether our lives are determined by fate or the random events of the universe. The film stars Yara Shahidi (‘Black-ish’) as Natasha and Charles Melton (‘Riverdale’) as Daniel, along with John Leguizamo (John Wick: Chapter 2).
“Directed by Ry Russo-Young (Before I Fall), the film is based on the acclaimed bestseller by Everything, Everything author Nicola Yoon. The Sun Is Also a Star was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and has received multiple accolades, including: 2016 National Book Award Finalist; Amazon’s Best Book of 2016 in YA; Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2016 in YA; the New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2016; and Entertainment Weekly’s 10 Best Books of 2016.
“Russo-Young directed from a screenplay by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip). The film’s producers are Leslie Morgenstein and Elysa Koplovitz Dutton, who served as producers on Everything, Everything. Pamela Hirsch served as executive producer. The behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Autumn Durald Arkapaw (Teen Spirit), production designer Wynn Thomas (Hidden Figures), editor Joe Landauer (Before I Fall), and costume designer Deirdra Elizabeth Govan (Sorry to Bother You). The music is by Herdís Stefánsdóttir (The Hate U Give).”
MAY 17: Walking on Water (dir. Andrey Paounov) (DPs: Martina Cocco, Simone D’Arcangelo, Pietro Daviddi, Antonio Ferrera, Snejina Latev, Anastas Petkov, Franco Piroli, Wedigo Von Schultzendorff and Debora Vrizzi) – Film Forum synopsis: “Christo and his late wife/partner Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009) created some of the most visually breathtaking art installations of the postwar era, including Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties (1976), Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin (1995), and The Gates in Central Park (2005). The Floating Piers—an ambitious effort to create the effect of walking on water via a 3-kilometer walkway over Lake Iseo in Northern Italy—is Christo’s first large-scale project since Jeanne-Claude’s passing (the two conceived of the idea together). Filmmaker Andrey M Paounov has rare access to Christo’s process, from inception to completion of the installation: thorny negotiations with local government, engineering challenges, crowd control, logistical nightmares and the sheer force of nature, captured through breathtaking aerial views and fly-on-the-wall cameras.”
MAY 17: The Wandering Soap Opera (dirs. Raúl Ruiz and Valeria Sarmiento) – Anthology Film Archives synopsis: “Raúl Ruiz passed away in 2011, but it should come as little surprise that a filmmaker as mind-bogglingly prolific, subversive, and mischievous as Ruiz wouldn’t let that get in the way of releasing a new film. The footage that comprises The Wandering Soap Opera was the result of a 6-day workshop that Ruiz gave for actors and technicians in his native Chile in 1990, during his first return visit since his departure for France following Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup d’état. Restored and completed by Valeria Sarmiento – Ruiz’s wife and editor, and an accomplished filmmaker in her own right – The Wandering Soap Opera turns out to be far more than a curiosity. Its status as Ruiz’s first post-dictatorship Chilean film would alone qualify it as an important film within his vast oeuvre (Ruiz made more than 100 films over the course of his career), but above and beyond that historical significance it proves to be a typically dazzling and inventive work that embeds a penetrating portrait of a society transfigured by the effects of almost 20 years of a repressive dictatorship into the form of a Borgesian parody of telenovela conventions. The Wandering Soap Opera contains passages that are as deadpan funny and astonishingly resourceful as anything in Ruiz’s body of work, while Sarmiento’s elegant assemblage (she bookends Ruiz’s own material with footage of him leading the workshop) renders the final product a moving tribute to an extraordinary filmmaker for whom even a hundred films wasn’t enough.”
MAY 17: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (dir. Stacie Passon) – Cinema Village synopsis: “Merricat (Taissa Farmiga) lives with her sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario) and her Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). The trio are survivors of an arsenic poisoning that killed everyone else in the family five years prior. Merricat is bold and imaginative, and protects the property with ‘spells.’ Despite being hated by the townspeople, the sisters live an idyllic life, until cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) arrives. Charles offers to help around the house, and inquires about the family’s finances. Constance is charmed by Charles, and Merricat resents Charles’ intrusion. As Charles and Merricat battle for control, tragedy threatens to strike again. Based on the 1962 novel by Shirley Jackson.”
MAY 24: Booksmart (dir. Olivia Wilde) – Variety’s SXSW review by Peter Debruge: “Booksmart besties Molly and Amy pretty much aced high school: Valedictorian and student-body president Molly (Beanie Feldstein, who is Jonah Hill’s sister) got accepted to Yale, her top-choice university — and the first step in her goal of becoming the youngest Supreme Court justice — while study buddy and super-activist Amy (Kaitlyn Dever, ‘Justified’) plans to spend some time volunteering in Botswana before continuing her studies at Columbia. Looks like all those late nights at the library paid off! Except that somewhere along the way, these two were so busy worrying about their futures that they missed out on being teenagers.
“That realization strikes when Molly, ducking into a super-skanky school lavatory where the graffiti is funnier than your average high school movie, overhears three presumed burnouts trash-talking her. Confronting them, she discovers that through some grave karmic mistake, two are headed to top schools and the other has landed a mid-six-figure job at Google. ‘This is not possible!’ Molly protests. ‘You guys don’t even care about school!’ To which the more popular girl snaps back, ‘No, we just don’t only care about school.’
“And so, now, on the last night of their high school careers, Molly and Amy aim to cram everything they missed into one, unforgettable night: crashing a wild house party, taking hallucinogenic drugs, projectile vomiting on a possible soul mate, and — for one lucky overachiever — spending the night in jail. None of this is what you’d expect from the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde, who cracked Harvard grads Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins’ script, which had been kicking around Hollywood for nearly a decade (it was featured on 2009’s Black List, and has since been finessed by Katie Silberman, Susanna Fogel, and the director).
“Comedy is hard, and doesn’t get a lot of respect within the industry, but Wilde saw that something was missing from the crowded field of R-rated end-of-innocence comedies: These high-scoring young ladies not only routinely ruin the curve for their fellow students, but they also pass the Bechdel Test with ease. Instead of reinforcing the same tired values that male directors have been peddling for years — where boys obsess about losing their virginity, freely objectifying the girls in their class — Booksmart matter-of-factly introduces one of its leads as a lesbian while presenting a view of female sexuality in which men are incidental. What’s more, the film rejects the notion that conquests ought to be so central to coming-of-age stories, delivering a romp that’s every bit as outrageous as American Pie or Porky’s while shifting its focus away from hookups (these ladies will undoubtedly find far more deserving partners in college) to whether their friendship can withstand such a wild and crazy night.
“Not since Superbad has a high school comedy so perfectly nailed how exhilarating it feels to act out at that age, capturing the thrill of making a series of potentially irreversible mistakes with the person who’s always been there for you, even as it acknowledges the inevitability that said confidante can’t be your wing-woman forever. Granted, the all-summer-in-one-day device has been done before, and Booksmart is hardly the first film to portray such adolescent recklessness from a female perspective: Clueless and Easy A gave classic literature a contemporary spin; Mean Girls and Blockers revealed just how much dudes like Cameron Crowe and John Hughes didn’t know about women.
“Booksmart fills in those gaps, and also gives the good girls a chance to act out. Besides, every generation needs its own rowdy high school comedy, and millennials deserve one that treats the anxieties teens have been grappling with for millennia with the same urgency that Jerry Bruckheimer would bring to a high-stakes action movie. Once Molly and Amy commit to crashing the night-before-graduation party where all the cool kids are going, Booksmart takes off with the nitro boost of a Bad Boys sequel — leaning on a hip-hop soundtrack that’s infinitely cooler than its characters to supply much of its energy. Like Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, or any other pair of wisecracking BFFs, these two young women totally have each other’s back — and good thing, too, since most of their classmates find their brainier-than-thou attitude insufferable.
“Rather than admonishing nerds with some lecture about priorities, or coming straight out and telling teens that it’s OK to make mistakes en route to responsibility, Booksmart demonstrates that even know-it-alls like Molly and Amy have a lot to learn. That’s what’s so endearing about the film’s central pair: They use their intelligence to overcompensate for an assortment of other insecurities, rapid-firing the kind of useless trivia that would make them ideal ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants, but confess ignorance when it comes to the basics — like the birds and the bees, or what to wear to a house party.
“Determined to figure out where the event is happening, Amy suggests, ‘Let’s do what we do best: homework!’ And it’s off to the library to find the address based on the available clues. Still, it doesn’t take a perfect SAT score to realize that these two use humor, and a certain snarky condescension toward everyone else, to make up for their own social awkwardness. There are no bullies at Crockett High School. If anything, Molly and Amy are the ones who routinely make others feel inferior, and their stream of put-downs — directed at mouth-breather Nick (Mason Gooding), or snappy overdresser George (Noah Galvin), or slut-shamed Triple A (Molly Gordon) — are both uncalled for and hilarious.
“Still, for all their book smarts, Molly and Amy may actually be remedial when it comes to common sense, scoring far higher in IQ than EQ. That makes for some pretty entertaining situations, whether trying to sneak past Amy’s folks (Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte) or attempting to extort a pizza delivery guy (Michael Patrick O’Brien) for directions to the party. Other familiar adult faces in the cast include Jason Sudeikis as the principal who supplements his income by driving a Lyft and Jessica Williams as the teacher everybody loves who crosses a line with one of her students.
“There’s not a weak link in the ensemble, although none of it would have worked if not for the chemistry between the two leads. Feldstein, who was one of the highlights of Lady Bird, shares older brother Jonah’s gift for physical comedy. Dever’s past credits have been more dramatic in nature (Short Term 12, Detroit), but her more introverted performance offsets Feldstein’s energy nicely. Dever also sells the emotional dimension of two key scenes without her co-star in which her groundbreaking character, who came out her sophomore year, finally musters the courage to flirt.
“Credit Wilde — who quietly practiced on a couple of shorts prior to this — for sustaining both the laughter and the energy throughout, and for pulling off several bold surprises along the way, including a stop-motion sequence that employs Barbie-like figurines to unexpectedly empowering effect. In this year’s class of first-time feature directors, Wilde handily earns the title of Most Likely to Succeed.”
MAY 24 (streaming on Netflix): Joy (dir. Sudabeh Mortezai) – Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films 2019 synopsis: “A staggering work of compassionate realism, Sudabeh Mortezai’s second fiction feature follows Joy (Joy Anwulika Alphonsus), a young Nigerian sex worker living in Vienna, struggling to simultaneously create a better life for her family and pay off her madame. Joy finds herself increasingly implicated in the vicious cycle of human trafficking, and when she is tasked by her madame with mentoring a teenage Nigerian girl, she begins to understand her role within this dehumanizing machine and consider the possibility of a life outside of it. Sensitive yet unsentimental, intelligent and viscerally affecting, Joy is a politically incisive work and a moral act.”
MAY 24: The Proposal (dir. Jill Magid) – IFC Center synopsis: “Known as ‘the artist among architects,’ Luis Barragán is among the world’s most celebrated architects of the 20th century. Upon his death in 1988, much of his work was locked away in a Swiss bunker, hidden from the world’s view. In an attempt to resurrect Barragán’s life and art, boundary redefining artist Jill Magid creates a daring proposition that becomes a fascinating artwork in itself – a high-wire act of negotiation that explores how far an artist will go to democratize access to art.”
MAY 24 (in theaters), MAY 28 (airing on HBO at 8:00 PM): Running with Beto (dir. David Modigliani) (DPs: Ellie Ann Fenton and Kelly West) – HBO synopsis: “David Modigliani’s behind-the-scenes documentary Running with Beto follows Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s rise from virtual unknown to national political sensation. Modigliani embedded with the O’Rourke campaign for a year as O’Rourke staged a bold, grassroots attempt to unseat Ted Cruz and represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. The film draws on intimate access to O’Rourke, his tight-knit family and his team of political newcomers, who champion a new way of getting to know a candidate — one Texas county at a time.
“As a Democrat in the historically Republican stronghold of Texas, the El Paso native’s journey was unique, as he traveled to all 254 counties in Texas, using social media in unconventional ways to bring his message to the masses and refusing to accept PAC money or corporate contributions along the way. The result was the best-funded grassroots campaign in U.S. Senate history.
“Running with Beto presents O’Rourke in a way that he has never been seen before. The film gives viewers unprecedented access into the personal and political toll that running for office can take on a candidate and a family, capturing revealing moments with his wife and three young kids throughout the grueling journey.
“The film offers an inside look at his unorthodox staff and a number of passionate, diverse supporters helping to spread a new message in Texas. Revealing the challenges of the campaign trail, Running with Beto documents Beto’s battles with an onslaught of negative advertising, the inevitable strain on his family, and the pressure of delivering for those he inspires.”
MAY 24 (WASHINGTON, D.C.), MAY 31 (NYC), JUNE 7 (LA & SAN FRANCISCO), JUNE 21 (CHICAGO): The Spy Behind Home Plate (dir. Aviva Kempner) – Synopsis from the film’s offficial website: “As Spring Training begins so does the countdown to Opening Day for the 2019 Major League Baseball season and the release of The Spy Behind Home Plate, the newest film about an unknown Jewish hero from award-winning documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner. The Spy Behind Home Plate, set for national release on Friday, May 24, is the first feature-length documentary about Moe Berg, the enigmatic and brilliant baseball player who turned spy for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. The film will play film festivals and theaters across the U.S. and internationally.
“Berg not only played for the last Washington Senators team to play in a World Series (1933), but he also trained with the OSS not far from the D.C. team’s home, Griffith Stadium. The Spy Behind Home Plate features rare historical footage as well as revealing interviews with an All-Star roster of celebrities and other individuals from the worlds of sports, spycraft and history. Interviewees include Berg’s relatives, fellow baseball players, biographer Nicholas Dawidoff, authors David Ignatius and Thomas Powers, film professor Dr. Annette Insdorf, playwright Michael Frayn, sports commentator Larry Merchant, sports columnist Ira Berkow, OSS Society president Charles Pinck, Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus, U.S. Senator Ed Markey and baseball executives Jerry Reinsdorf and Bud Selig.
“Kempner, who produced, wrote and directed the film, describes it by saying, ‘Moe Berg is finally achieving the recognition he so deserves as a World War II hero. This full-length feature documentary explores the broader landscape of his immigrant Jewish upbringing, why he was called the brainiest man in baseball, and his many courageous OSS missions geared towards preventing the Nazis from developing the atomic bomb. Berg is the American hero we all need to know more about!'”
MAY 28 (VOD): Zoo (dir. Antonio Tublen) (DP: Anna Patarakina) – Cleveland International Film Festival synopsis: “The zombie apocalypse couldn’t have come at a worse time for John (Ed Speleers) and Karen (Zoë Tapper). Just as Karen is about to ask John for a divorce, all hell breaks loose. Not only are there flesh-eating zombies wandering the streets, but the unhappy couple is now stuck at home indefinitely while they wait to be rescued… and Karen forgot to go grocery shopping. But having all this time together gives the couple an opportunity to finally talk things out. And as the challenges before them become greater, this duo will prove to be a pretty good team. While the outside world continues to spiral out of control, John and Karen rekindle their romance as they stock up on weapons and supplies, and train to fight the undead. If they can survive it, the end of the world might be just what John and Karen need to fix their marriage. A highly entertaining hybrid of genres, Zoo is a romantic love story, quirky comedy, and gory horror movie all in one.”
MAY 31 (streaming on Netflix): Always Be My Maybe (dir. Nahnatchka Khan) – Variety synopsis by Dave McNary: “Ali Wong and Randall Park star in the feature as childhood sweethearts who have a falling out and don’t speak for 15 years. They reconnect as adults when Wong’s character — a celebrity chef opening a restaurant in San Francisco — runs into Park’s character, a happily struggling musician still living at home working for his dad. The old sparks are still there, but can they adapt to each other’s world?
“Additional cast members include Keanu Reeves, Daniel Dae Kim, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, James Saito, Lyrics Born, and Susan Park. Nahnatchka Khan, who worked with Wong and Park on ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ is directing the feature from a script by Wong, Park, and Michael Golamco.”
MAY 31: Ma (dir. Tate Taylor) (DP: Christina Voros) – Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Everybody’s welcome at Ma’s. But good luck getting home safe. Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer stars as Sue Ann, a loner who keeps to herself in her quiet Ohio town. One day, she is asked by Maggie, a new teenager in town (Diana Silvers, Glass), to buy some booze for her and her friends, and Sue Ann sees the chance to make some unsuspecting, if younger, friends of her own.
“She offers the kids the chance to avoid drinking and driving by hanging out in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her ‘Ma.’ But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth.
“Ma also stars Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County) as Maggie’s mom, Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) as a local dad, Missi Pyle (Gone Girl) as his girlfriend, and McKaley Miller (TV’s ‘Hart of Dixie’), Corey Fogelmanis (TV’s ‘Girl Meets World’), Gianni Paolo (TV’s ‘Power’) and Dante Brown (‘Lethal Weapon’ TV series) as Maggie’s friends. From Tate Taylor, the acclaimed director of The Help and Get On Up, and blockbuster producer Jason Blum (Get Out, Halloween, The Purge series) comes a thriller anchored by a daring and unexpected performance from Spencer, one of the most powerful actors of her generation.”
MAY 31: Mouthpiece (dir. Patricia Rozema) (DP: Catherine Lutes) – Cinema from the Spectrum’s Toronto International Film Festival review by Jaime Rebanal: “Patricia Rozema has always been a rather underrated voice in Canadian cinema. When talking about Mouthpiece, it may not be easy to describe this sort of experiment from the get go, but it’s also something so admirable from the way in which it breaks down the psychology of a woman – manifesting from the idea that there’s more going on inside the mind of a single person, so much so it splits them into two. But in these fragments that Rozema makes us aware of on the screen, we also see another understanding of such perspectives that encourages people to see the world through another set of eyes. And through that lens, Rozema’s approach also feels incredibly empathetic, which also makes Mouthpiece resonate all the more. For as slight as its scope may be, you already feel there’s an incredible reach present in Mouthpiece that presents something special on the inside – because sometimes the greatest impact can come forward from an act of understanding.
“Based on the play written by the film’s two lead actresses, Mouthpiece tells the story of the aspiring writer Cassandra – as she tries to come to terms with the sudden news of her mother’s death as she tries her best to take in the sort of person that she was, while also dealing with an internal conflict. The film shows us two sides of Cassandra, fittingly enough played by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, as she tries to find a sense of peace with her own mind while trying to remain truthful about how she felt while her mother was around. But of course, there comes another trial in trying to figure things out for herself – something that the outside world cannot see but only she can see. Through viewing a story like such through this lens you’re also watching a film all about the building blocks of what makes any human being the sort of person they are, but there’s a certain sympathy that both sides of the same person can elicit which opens your eyes to something new.
“With the concept of two different sides of the same person being shown on the screen you would already think about a competition for which side feels more rational but in this instance you see confusion manifesting over one’s soul. In the two sides of Cassandra that we’re seeing, that confusion already feels best represented in the performances of both Nostbakken and Sadava – playing ‘short’ and ‘tall’ Cassandra. With the two having written the script upon which the film was based, you still find that the stage roots of this story are present but there’s also a great deal to admire about what the two of them can elicit to create one concrete character trying to figure everything out. It’s intriguing enough watching how both sides interact with their own environments but there’s a new depth that we are made to see on the screen to such a character that only this sort of storytelling can accomplish.
“Although the film’s stage roots make themselves a tad too clear, Patricia Rozema still keeps everything enclosed within her own direction. This isn’t a story that can always hide its own stage roots, but there’s a sense of empathy from Rozema’s direction that makes Cassandra’s confusion feel so much more resonant – because of course trying to write a eulogy for someone that remained so close to yourself through most of life can only shatter you all the more when you seek to stick as close to the truth as possible. Perhaps there’s a limit present to which Rozema can extend this communication to the viewer, because of the extent to which it feels enclosed through the eyes of Cassandra, limiting the background interaction she has – only stoic figures being the most we see there.
“Mouthpiece remains small, but the way in which it defines its environment through Cassandra’s confusion encourages one to look at life through a different set of eyes. Perhaps that’s something that can already be repeated about the very best of cinema, but with Mouthpiece showing its own roots having originated from a stage play, there’s another power that Rozema amplifies from every moment that we spend observing how Cassandra tries to come to terms with her own crumbling world. But even in the moments where it stumbles, it’s never not a fascinating watch – because of course trying to find peace amidst all of this can only mean a messy journey is going through.”
MAY 31: Renegade Dreamers (dir. Karen Kramer) – Cinema Village synopsis: “Renegade Dreamers is a window into the New York protest poets and folk singers of today who use their art for social change, interwoven with a look back at the Beat poets and radical protest singers of the legendary Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene of the ‘60s that started it all.”
MAY 31: Too Late to Die Young (dir. Dominga Sotomayor) – Film Society of Lincoln Center synopsis: “The year 1990 was when Chile transitioned to democracy, but all of that seems a world away for 16-year-old Sofia, who lives far off the grid in a mountain enclave of artists and bohemians. Too Late to Die Young takes place during the hot, languorous days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the troubling realities of the adult world—and the elemental forces of nature—begin to intrude on her teenage idyll. Shot in dreamily diaphanous, sun-splashed images and set to period-perfect pop, the second feature from one of Latin American cinema’s most artful and distinctive voices is at once nostalgic and piercing, a portrait of a young woman—and a country—on the cusp of exhilarating and terrifying change.”