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: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Submerged in a murk of ruminative nostalgia, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood emerges with a clarity for former masculine ideals and a sense of eras coming to a close. A culture is dying, and its creators’ existential security with it. We follow a fictional dwindling movie star and his stunt man as they hurtle into obsoletion, aware of the tide turning beneath them while they are also too stuck in their ways to adapt instead. We also follow the emerging star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) as she wanders casually toward history, an event that marks both a beginning and an end.

As Tarantino crafts this tale, his most ponderous and slippery creation, it becomes apparent that he’s grappling with the current state of filmmaking affairs, rewriting history to discuss an industry on the precipice of seismic change on multiple fronts. But of the many things that Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is – bruised, affectionately satirical, hesitant – conclusive is possibly not one of them. It’s Tarantino’s least demonstrative film, and ultimately his most open to interpretation.


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In Review: The Art of Self-Defense

Writer-director Riley Stearns reaches for arch misanthropy with his sophomore feature The Art of Self-Defense, a comedy of modern masculinity stuck in the stone ages. Gifted with a smartly assembled cast playing to their typical types but with some freshness, the film is assembled with competing doses of dark humor and familiarity. But despite some of its early laughs, the film’s influences are all too apparent to establish a voice all its own. As the film strays into thriller territory, the themes grow stale and its satire somewhat compromised.


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