Rooney Mara is one of those rare actresses who almost never puts a foot wrong. Kicking off her mainstream career as the female muse of David Fincher in both ‘The Social Network’ and ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, she has delivered a string of exemplary performances that paint her as one of this century’s strongest talents. Perhaps that’s why it’s so sad to see her skills reduced to a sappy, ineffective rubble in ‘The Secret Scripture’, the latest film from ‘My Left Foot’ director Jim Sheridan.
Personal provocations aside, there is no denying that Nate Parker’s directorial debut is a formidable, well-rounded piece of filmmaking. Since premiering at Sundance back in January, The Birth of a Nation has been tipped by many a critic as the film to beat come award season – and rightfully so. Parker’s imagining of the almost untold story of a 19th-century slave rebellion has all the hallmarks of a buzzy awards film: great storytelling ambition, an exemplary cast, and a swoon-worthy technical flare. That’s all well and good, but what makes this film so special is its proud, powerful intent; one that manages to say as much about those days as it does about today.
With films like The Secret Life of Pets prevailing over beauties like Pete’s Dragon, it’s easy to see why most people dismiss kids movies as, well, movies for kids. With the exception of the odd Pixar film hitting the ‘Fresh!’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most films geared towards a younger audience are relegated to Sunday morning screenings, drifting out of cinemas once an onslaught of three-year-olds have seen them. A Monster Calls is the kind of film that, without the right treatment, could suffer a similar fate. Thankfully, this adaptation of Patrick Ness’ acclaimed children’s novel is handled so delicately by the great J.A. Bayona that it maintains every ounce of the source material’s power and sadness.
Very few independent films, especially Iranian skateboarding vampire movies, take off in the way Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut did. Back in 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night grabbed accolades and glowing reviews for its left-field aesthetic and accomplished directing – both of which went over our heads here at Frowning. We have to admit to being in the minority there, with Amirpour’s vision beguiling a strong arthouse audience upon its official release, but the film’s lovers or haters eagerly awaited what strange film would come next.
It’s raining a little when Lee Chandler drives back into Manchester-by-the-Sea, the small Massachusetts fishing town he grew up in. He hasn’t been back in a while – and there’s a good reason for that – but the news that his brother has recently passed forces him to leave his job in Boston and return, both to sort out family affairs and to care for the son that his brother has left behind.
I have spent a lot of time considering my childhood as a girl. In fact, thinking about it has been an integral part of working out my own identity, as well as where I fit in the world. Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s portrait of Turkish girlhood, is both culturally specific while remaining reminiscent of the lives of young women on a universal scale. As a result, this is not a tale of five orphans, this is a story about five incredibly strong girls.
Visually, Charles Henri Belleville’s Jet Trash is a lurid meeting of Nicolas Winding-Refn’s old and new work. Bathed in sunset orange and flashes of luminescent teal blue, it takes us from the party beaches of Southern India to the sleazy underworld nightclubs of London in one gorgeous swooping camera shot.Following the lives of two drug pushers playing an around-the-world game of cat and mouse, Jet Trash earns no major kudos for plot originality but soars when it comes to its arresting aesthetics.
Films rooted in existentialism and human nature have been the coherent bloodline of Cannes this year. The Dardenne Brothers attempted and failed at it with The Unknown Girl, and Sean Penn downright murdered it with The Last Face, a film so unaware of its out of touch, garish nature that it bordered on offensive. Thank god then, that previous Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu brings his latest offering to this year’s competition. Refreshingly basic in its structure and yet defined by its effective use of moral complexities, Graduation feels like its director’s Michael Haneke moment.
At just 27 years old, Quebecois director Xavier Dolan already possesses a few filmmaking quirks that are easily identifiable as his own. An unbreakable love for pop culture and long forgotten chart hits is one; an adoration for fiery, on screen conflict the other. Having arrived in Cannes two years ago with arguably his best film Mommy, and his other works (bar 2011’s Tom at the Farm) all having a Croisette premiere prior to that, he’s gained the title of the festival’s new enfant terrible for the ostentatious attitude he has towards his own precious work. In our eyes the guy’s a genius; one who understands his fictional characters so intricately, it’s as if they’re members of his own family.
Choppy, monochrome seas fill the opening frames of The Red Turtle, a man appearing on the surface of the water before being dragged down into its depths by an angry storm. It’s over in a mere matter of minutes, but enraptures you with such tension that it feels as though it lasts for an unnerving lifetime, reminding us of Studio Ghibli’s indelibly powerful set pieces. Like, for example, the air raids over war era Japan in Grave of the Fireflies, or the imminent arrival of a huge, sludgy spirit in the bathhouses of Spirited Away.