‘certain women’ is a fragile drama about finding yourself

Laura (Laura Dern) works as a lawyer, and has been trying to convince her client that this case can’t be won. But after 8 months of hard work, she gives up and suggests a male lawyer who tells the client exactly the same thing. This time the client agrees, proving that sexism is still present.

Gina (Michelle Williams) is barely handling her marriage. She can’t make a connection with her daughter, and the only escape she gets is a morning run and a few drags of the occasional cigarette. Despite this, she keeps denying the existence of all of her problems.

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from tiff: ‘bleed for this’ is a light impact boxing biopic

Miles Teller is an undeniable talent, albeit one still waiting to match the greatness of the film that made him a star. Back in 2014, Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’, a ‘Raging Bull’-inspired musical tour de force in which boxing gloves are swapped for drumsticks, won the young actor the respect of both critics and fans alike. For a while, he’s been tied down by young adult fiction franchises and been left bobbing in the shallow end of Marvel’s comic book universe – neither of which making much use of his expertise. Two years later, Teller was still waiting, until his attachment to Ben Younger’s, Scorsese produced boxing flick ‘Bleed for This’ had his supporters chomping at the bit to see him succeed again.

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from tiff: ‘past life’ is a moving morality drama

Past Life, Avi Nesher’s highly anticipated follow up to 2013’s The Wonders, is a moving moral fable about how we face and process the demons that can define our lives.

The year is 1977, and Sephi Milch is a young woman studying vocal performance and composition in a Tel Aviv university. A trip to West Germany leads her to a shaking encounter with a woman who, recognising her last name and language, labels her father a murderer. Unaware of what could have led to this, she alerts her outspoken older sister Nana of what she has heard, and together they band together to visit scenes of his wartime past in an attempt to uncover the truth.

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from tiff: ‘jackie’ is an ornate beauty

In Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, The White House frames Jacqueline Kennedy the way castles frame their queens. The definitive First Lady of the 1960s, who also earned herself the title of a fashion icon, made that place her home; her appreciation of fine decor and relics appearing in almost every room. It makes sense then, that Larraín’s eagerly awaited biopic of the icon feels like the kind of film Kennedy herself would make; astute, swooningly good-looking and blessed with an extraordinary leading lady.

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from tiff: ‘sing’ is a lively, if unsurprising musical

If anybody could add innovation and colour to a film by Illumination Entertainment, chances are that person would be Garth Jennings. The British director, who previously helmed the ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ remake and the charming ‘Son of Rambow’, has a tendency to make movies packed with both warmth and wit. We haven’t seen anything new from him since the latter hit our screens back in 2007, but he marks his big screen comeback with ‘Sing’, the latest inevitable box office smash from the studio behind ‘Minions’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets’.

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from tiff: ‘arrival’ is a nuanced and beguiling sci-fi masterpiece

There’s something sort of ominous about the way the alien spaceships in ‘Arrival’ simply hover over earth in relative silence. Perhaps, after years of directors choosing to depict unknown entities blasting the living daylights out of our landscapes, it’s even more intimidating to see them sit still and do nothing as we wait for their unpredictable reaction. That is, in a way, what makes Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to the widely acclaimed Sicario so special. We’ve come to expect our science fiction films to have grandiose set pieces and stunning CGI, while Arrival burrows itself under your skin by swapping out violence in favour of conversation.

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from tiff: ‘the secret scripture’ is a drab, disappointing period piece

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.

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from tiff: ‘the bad batch’ is a lifeless, pop art western

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.

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from tiff: ‘manchester by the sea’ is a masterful, modern classic

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.

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from cannes: why ‘graduation’ is a masterclass in powerful movie realism

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.

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