Glass Onion: A Knife Mystery (director Rian Johnson)
Rian Johnson’s 2019 murder mystery Knives Out was a huge success that single-handedly breathed new life into the on-screen all-star whodunnit. The second film in the cinematic universe of Knives Out is a murderous adventure as intriguing and intricate as the puzzle boxes featured in the plot. Daniel Craig relives his hilarious turn as the drawling Southern detective Benoit Blanc.
Decide to leave (dir. Park Chan-wook)
Korean director Park Chan-wook captivated international audiences with his adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith – renamed The Handmaiden – and now he’s back with another superb suspense thriller. Decision to Leave is a sensational black-widow noir romance, starring Chinese star Tang Wei as a mysterious woman whose body has been found at the bottom of a well-known climbing rock. Did he fall? Did he take his own life? Or did his wife kill him?
to live (director Oliver Hermanus)
This deeply moving drama is one of the movies of the year. Director Oliver Hermanus and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro have recreated Akira Kurosawa’s classic Ikiru, or To Live, about the humble civil servant who dies of cancer but is on a mission to break through bureaucracy and build a children’s playground before death approaches. Bill Nighy is fantastic as the shy official who wants his life to mean something and Aimee Lou Wood is excellent as his cheerful junior colleague Margaret.
Saint-Omer (direction Alice Diop)
French-Senegalese director Alice Diop is widely acclaimed as a documentary maker and for her brilliant film We (Nous) about diverse communities around Paris. Her feature debut — a no-nonsense courtroom drama — was this year’s talk at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize. Kayije Kagame plays Rama, a Senegalese writer and academic who attends the trial of a Senegalese woman accused of murdering her 15-month-old child – Laurence, played by Guslagie Malanga. Rama plans to do some sort of reportage around the Medea myth, but she soon realizes that her bond with the suspect runs deeper than this.
After sun (reg. Charlotte Wells)
Young British filmmaker Charlotte Wells makes a stellar debut with Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal as a divorced father who takes his young daughter (9-year-old newcomer Frankie Corio) on a summer vacation at a cheap Turkish resort: a holiday in the sun that is kind of goodbye. Wells’ film ripples and shimmers like a mysterious swimming pool. The details pile up; the images reverberate; the softness of the central relationship gradually becomes more important. A silent wonder of a movie.
All the beauty and the bloodshed (dr. Laura Poitras)
We’re used to dysfunctional super-rich families, from the Murdochs to the fictional Roys on Jesse Armstrong’s TV show Succession. But the most bizarre clan of modern times is the Sackler family, the great pharmaceutical dynasty of the US, who made a staggering fortune from the addictive opioid pain pill OxyContin, turning millions into junkies, and tried to entice their brand by donating to thousands. art galleries and museums. The documentary by Laura Poitras, winner of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is about the photographer Nan Goldin, who became addicted to the pill and then led a campaign to hold the Sacklers to account.
Corset (directed by Marie Kreutzer)
Here’s a fascinating film about the most eminent royal superstar of the 19th century: the Habsburg Empress Elizabeth of Austria, or “Sissi”, played by Vicky Krieps (the co-star of Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread) in this film from director Marie Kreutzer. The drama focuses on her fraught life at home in 1877, the year of her 40th birthday. It shows us her luxurious delirium of loneliness, her unhappiness at her husband’s infidelity, her torment at getting into her patriarchal corsage, and also her rebelliousness and imagined encounters with heroin and cinema.
Realm of Light (direction Sam Mendes)
Olivia Colman gives a glorious performance in this beautifully observed new drama from Sam Mendes – a film that revives the “love letter to the movie” genre. She plays Hilary, a cinema manager in Margate in 1981, as Mrs Thatcher’s UK slips into recession and she herself suffers from depression. Her manager (Colin Firth) is a pompous asshole and her life seems sad. But then a new ticket seller named Stephen (played with rich emotional openness by Michael Ward) starts working at the venue and there is a connection between him and Hilary.
The Banshees of Inisherin (director Martin McDonagh)
A macabre comedy of male emotional stagnation, also a parable for the Irish Civil War, Martin McDonagh’s latest is set on the imaginary island of Inisherin off the coast of Ireland in 1923. Colin Farrell plays Pádraic, a dairy farmer who wants to separate very little from life from his friendship with Colm, played by Brendan Gleeson, whom he calls every day to go to the pub. But then Colm simply says he doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore: an almost childish break with horrific emotional consequences.
Robe of gems (dir. Natalia Lopez Gallardo)
The Mexican-Bolivian editor-turned-director Natalia López Gallardo (who has worked with Carlos Reygadas and Lisandro Alonso) is one of the most exciting new talents in world cinema: her film is a complex, disturbing, disturbing work: a psychopathological mood board of a film, a story of crime, class and corruption in modern Mexico. An unhappy married woman has taken her two children to live in her late mother’s dilapidated villa – but the maid there is haunted by the disappearance of her sister, whose body may be buried on the property.
Have a nice morning (direction Mia Hansen-Løve)
Léa Seydoux stars in this beautiful, humane film by Mia Hansen-Løve; she is Sandra, a single mother who works hard as an interpreter and is dedicated to caring for her father, who has the dementia-like neurodegenerative disorder Benson’s syndrome. It becomes Sandra’s responsibility to get her father into a nursing home. But just when she resigns to give up emotionally, Sandra finds herself drawn to a married man played by Melvil Poupaud.
white noise (director Noah Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach’s White Noise is a wonderfully stylish adaptation of Don DeLillo’s cult novel: a deadpan comedy of catastrophe and a sensual apocalyptic reverie based on the premise that nothing can really go wrong…or can it? Adam Driver plays Jack, an academic with the bizarre title of head of Hitler studies; Don Cheadle plays Murray, his campus colleague who is the head of Elvis Studies: Slavoj Žižek has nothing to do with these postmodernist thinkers. But Jack’s wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) goes unwell and the whole neighborhood is in turmoil when a poisonous cloud bursts from a crashed nuclear waste train: a “toxic event in the air” that brings everyone’s fears to the surface.