In Review: Vita and Virginia

Some costume dramas excite in their mere opulence, bringing to life a former era with delicious design elements; some view their period ironically, winking at their subjects with anachronisms to appeal to modern audiences. Vita and Virginia, director Chanya Button’s take on Virginia Woolf’s affair with writer Vita Sackville-West, excels in its refusal to be stuffy by fusing elements of the two approaches. It’s something left-of-center in a traditional costume drama’s clothing, and arrestingly so.

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In Review: The Nightingale

The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent finally returns to the screen with an indictment, a film of even more despairing rage and stifled compassion. It’s The Nightingale and its a whole different genre exercise, but an exercise it is indeed – of mind, body, and most importantly, soul. This time, Kent’s ghosts carry the burden of brutal history, forcing the audience to face a continent’s past and even more foundational evils of humanity still taking root in modern society. The Nightingale is bleak and uncompromising, an exhaustive polemic of staggering composition, if sometimes porously communicated.

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In Review: Them That Follow

In depicting religious extremity, Them That Follow creates a terrifying experience that most horror films might envy. Set in a secluded in Appalachian community, the film examines Christian fundamentalism with an eye on snake-based sacraments. Them That Follow is not for them that fear snakes, however the film’s dominant terror comes not from the omnipresence of venomous creatures, but from the punishing psychosis of its setting. But beyond its ability to rattle your nerves, the film lacks a more refined degree of authenticity to make it register more deeply.

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In Review: The Farewell

Lulu Wang’s The Farewell is an embrace of a film, the kind of personal narrative that reaches out and seizes your empathy with full force. It’s mighty but gentle, thematically varied but filled with specificity, funny but deeply moving – certainly one of the most varied in its gifts and therefore one of the best. Wang crafts the kind of film you hate to let go of when you leave the theatre, wishing you could stay in the weight of its affections and its grace. As the multiplex continues to fill with cynicism and commodity for fleeting distractions, The Farewell is a film built to actually connect. And does it ever.

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In Review: Consequences

A coming-of-age story of isolation and punishment emerges in Consequences, a bleak new Slovenian film from feature debut director Darko Štante. Drawing on his own history assisting in a youth detention center, the film follows Matej Zemljic as Andrej, a teenager sent to a correctional facility due to his violent behavior. Though initially the target of his fellow inmates aggression, he quickly assimilates into their crew and finds an outlet for his fury in their macho community. But the slow revelation that Andrej is also secretly gay complicates his standing within the group in unexpected ways.

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