Director: Aki Kaurismäki. Starring: Sakari Kuosmanen, Sherwan Haji. Finland/Germany 2017. TBC mins. Finnish/Swedish/Arabic with English subtitles.
Acclaimed writer-director Aki Kaurismäki’s poignant follow-up to Le Havre sensitively weaves together the struggles of two men who flee their homes, albeit in very different circumstances. The first is Khaled (Haji), a Syrian refugee separated from his family, who arrives in Helsinki hidden as a stowaway on a coal freighter. After his transfer to a bleak, impersonal holding centre, the details of his tragic story come to light. Meanwhile, a parallel, equally desperate tale unfolds courtesy of spiky salesman Waldemar Wikström (Kuosmanen), who leaves his drunken wife and quite literally gambles everything on financing a failing restaurant. Typically of Kaurismäki, there’s much dark humour as Wikström and Khaled’s paths cross, yet antagonism eventually yields to sympathy, spawning a surrogate family unit that touchingly fills in for absent kin.
Director: Michaël Dudok De Wit. France/Belgium/Japan 2015. 81 mins.
Renowned Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli’s first-ever international co-production is a perfect collaboration with Oscar-winning Dutch animator Michaël Dudok De Wit. The Red Turtle, almost a decade in the making, is a dialogue-free fable about a castaway on a desert island, and a touching ode to the cycle of life and the resilience of family. Presented with an elegant simplicity, the sublime visuals pack a real emotional punch. Described by critics as a ‘quiet little masterpiece’ and a ‘wordless wonder’, The Red Turtle won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes. Michaël Dudok De Wit previously made the Oscar-winning animated short Father And Daughter in 2000.
Director: François Ozon.
Starring: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stotzner. France/Germany 2016. 114 mins.
German/French with English subtitles.
Set in the aftermath of the Great War, François Ozon’s loose adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby has an unsettling question at its core: could a big lie cause less pain than a simple truth? Anna (Beer) is the German fiancée of Frantz, who was killed in battle by French troops. While tending his grave, she is joined by the mysterious Frenchman Adrien (Niney, Yves Saint Laurent), who claims to have known Frantz in Paris before the war. Little things, however, reveal that this is not the whole story. As the two grow closer over time, Anna is drawn into a shady realm of secrets, lies and moral uncertainty. The subtleties and surprising twists and turns of Ozon’s film deliver much more than a challenging moral fable. Contains infrequent moderate violence.
Director: William Oldroyd.
Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton. UK 2016. 89 mins.
Acclaimed theatre director William Oldroyd makes a seamless transition to the screen in this brilliant Gothic tale of a young bride trapped in a marriage of convenience on a rural estate who embarks on a passionate affair. Florence Pugh (last seen in Carol Morley’s The Falling) is stunning as Lady Katherine, a woman determined to turn everything upside down in her mission to reclaim control over her life. Based on Lady Macbeth Of The Mtensk District, the 1865 novel by Nikolai Leskov, which inspired Shostakovich’s opera of the same name, this beautiful and highly assured debut, set amid the wild moorland of Northumberland, is a wonderful and strange story of love and betrayal.