THE WEEKEND (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

All hail the mighty Daniel Orihai, who bursts out of Nigeria with a pounding, intoxicating instant horror classic, The Weekend. Nikiya is everything her gentle vegetarian fiancé Luc could have dreamed of; she’s confident, beautiful and as in love with him as he is with her. But with no family of her own, she yearns for a place in a traditional family, which clashes directly with Luc’s years-long decision to sever all ties with his mother, father and sister. With an invitation to attend his parent’s wedding anniversary celebrations in the village where he grew up, Luc begrudgingly relents, but upon arrival it does not take long for him to remember why he wanted to keep his distance in the first place.

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BRIEF HISTORY OF A FAMILY (Sydney FF 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

There is a throbbing undercurrent in Brief History of a Family that silently grants this family drama the tonal energy of a thriller, reaching almost Hanekeian heights at moments. But it is also distinctly Chinese; mentioning the spectre of the country’s one child policy that ran from 1979 to 2015 to help curb a population explosion as a kind of omnipresent geopolitical factor that adds tragedy to this vision of an imperfect family’s search for perfection. It might not have the climactic whistles and bells of Parasite or Saltburn, but in this instance anything else would feel almost dishonest; this is a careful, considered film of enormous intelligence and emotional resonance.

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WAKE UP (Sydney FF 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Wake Up is a high octane thrill ride with all the generic trappings of the slasher film but a thematic heart that beats with pure activist intent, Wake Up is the kind of film that demands hooting, hollering and other loudly vocalized responses, ideally from an audience in a united front rather than lone sofa-dwellers or bus phone-watchers.

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KILL (Sydney FF 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The film issues a kind of acrobatic masculinity that would make Burt Lancaster blush, all shot through a bloody lens that would make Peckinpah proud. The film is all about testosterone, as competing forces of good men and bad men duke it out so if a nuanced take on gender politics is what you are after, perhaps look elsewhere. But this film makes no apologies for what it is: a straight-up action film onslaught which promises you a vast, impressive spectrum of the ways that bones can be broken, bodies can snap, and bad guys put in their place.

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MEMORY (Sydney FF 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Memory is a remarkably humane film that avoids any obvious missteps that would see it collapse into movie-of-the-week social issue melodrama terrain. While Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard largely carry the film, there is a particularly strong support cast that warrant acknowledgement; of particular note is Jessica Harper in a performance that is surely a career highlight. Memory is a thoughtful, moving film whose power and potency lingers well after the end credits.

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SHE LOVED BLOSSOMS (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

With their worlds rocked by the death of their beloved mother, three Greek brothers combine their various skillsets in their overgrown, baroque family home with the hope of bringing her back. As an unfortunate chicken and an unlucky paramore both learn the hard way, an antique art deco wardrobe becomes the unexpected site of a range of experiments intent on turning it into a bespoke, DIY machine with the ability to bring the dead back to life. But their complex interpersonal relationships between each other and their complicate their mission and their ability to deliver on its promise, are rendered even more confusing by an undisguised penchant for mind-altering hallucinogens.

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WITCHES (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Filmmaker Elizabeth Sankey’s Witches uses the visual language of the on-screen witch to talk about her own very personal experience of motherhood and psychological collapse. The cultural history of the witch is one that has, across the years, offered a complex and at times contradictory vision of both idealized and demonized womanhood; a figure of strength and independence at times, that same power is often the very same thing that finds her excluded, feared and mocked.

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VULCANIZADORA (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Marty (Joshua Burge) and Derek (Joel Potrykus) are on a mission. Wandering through the woods somewhere in Michigan, Marty finds only the briefest of moments to interrupt incessant chatterbox Derek, the latter of whom seems almost manically intent on narrating himself into a state of accepting their circumstances. Arriving at their destination, the purpose of their journey is brought into sudden, shocking focus. But here – like so many things in their lives – things again do not go exactly according to plan. Forced to address the fallout, Marty must face up to the very things that saw him run to the woods to escape in the first place.

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BEACON (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The spark between Julia Goldani Telles and Demián Bichir that very much drives the film and brings Julio Rojas’s taut screenplay to life. Thanks to them, the film successfully makes these characters believable and avoids them falling into cartooninsh parody. And while there is a delightful spirit of excess that increases as tensions mount, it is never at the expense of the integrity of these two central characters. A watertight encounter with the lighthouse-set horror trope that fully serves the film’s deeper gender political thematics, ,em>Beacon does exactly what it sets sail to do.

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THE WASP (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The Wasp is a thrillingly twisty chamber piece, and you’d be hard pressed to fight the desire to immediately rewatch it straight after your first viewing, just to see how director Guillem Morales and his collaborators pull it off so convincingly. A confident portrait of how the tiny humiliations of childhood can fester, The Wasp is a delicious, dark delight.

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