MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 16, 2021: HOPE

Maria Sodhal follows up 2010’s Limbo with another quiet yet powerful exploration of relationships under pressure; in this case, a shocking cancer diagnosis. Andrea Braein Hovig and Stellan Skarsgaard put in sterling performances as the long-term couple whose stale relationship is shaken up by the terminal illness. Writer/director at Sodhal – who drew on her own experiences – eschews overwrought melodrama and obvious emotional cues in favour of deeply felt observation, and delivers a film of raw realism and genuine humanity.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 9, 2021: SLALOM

As challenging — and stark — as the mountains its main character hurtles down in the pursuit of athletic glory and personal validation, French filmmaker Charlène Favier’s debut feature Slalom is an unflinching look at the impact of what happens to a vulnerable teenage girl when an authority figure abuses his authority and position of power.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 2, 2021: SUGAR DADDY

Stylish and original, director Wendy Morgan’s drama Sugar Daddy is a film that demands your attention. Much like its central character, Darren (Kelly McCormack, who also wrote the screenplay), it’s never gentle, yielding, or meek — rather, it’s bold, complicated, and confident in its artistry. It’s not always easy to watch, but it’s never less than compelling.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 19, 2021: ROSE PLAYS JULIE

In Rose Plays Julie the anxiety of a daughter’s discontent and her birth mother’s minefield of memories begin to run parallel. The film-makers layer in visuals of euthanasia, excavation, dissection, and horror to amplify a suspense that otherwise might’ve been melodrama. The result is an engrossing thriller made edgier by the performances of Ann Skelly and Orla Brady. From beginning to end, Rose Plays Julie is an effective examination of “what if” and sexual assault, one that leaves no doubt about the harm the latter causes, which is visceral and frightening and long lasting.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 12, 2021: MOXIE

Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and David Hogg notwithstanding, not every teen is ready to fight for justice and equality on a national — or international — scale. Director Amy Poehler’s charming Moxie, based on the YA novel by Jennifer Mathieu, will speak to the kids who want to make a difference but aren’t quite sure they’re meant for the spotlight.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 5, 2021: THE ORPHANAGE

Filmed with an intimate realism that feels as authentic as any documentary, Shahrbanoo Sadat’s The Orphanage is a compelling drama about life in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, near the end of the country’s Soviet era. Like Sadat’s first feature, Wolf and Sheep, it’s based on the unpublished diaries of Anwar Hashimi, and it offers a closely observed portrait of real teen life in this specific time and place.

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Women’s History Month Watch List: REAL REEL WOMEN

Throughout cinema history, films by and about women have enthralled audiences, accrued awards and honors worldwide and scored at the box office while influencing out social social mores and enriching our cultural conversation. Although some Hollywood honchos and haters assert that female-centric movies are less likely to be commercial successes, our list proves them wrong. Movies that tell women’s stories have legs. Released to celebrate Women’s History Month, AWFJ’s REAL REEL WOMEN List is an annotated roster of 50 fascinating real women whose remarkable true stories have been told in narrative features since the earliest days of moviemaking.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 26, 2021: MY ZOE

Like Kramer vs. Kramer by way of The Twilight Zone, Julie Delpy’s compelling drama My Zoe examines the depth and fierceness of maternal love. It centers on Isabelle (Delpy), a woman who will take every risk and push every envelope in the name of her beloved daughter, Zoe (Sophia Ally). But is she acting in Zoe’s interests or her own?

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 25, 2021: TEST PATTERN

Heartbreaking and infuriating in its authentic portrayal of a woman left reeling after being raped, Shatara Michelle Ford’s Test Pattern makes it crystal clear just how stacked the system often is against the victims of sexual assault. Between endless bureaucracy and condescending skepticism, it’s no wonder so many women don’t even bother pursuing justice for these horrible crimes.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 12, 2021: COWBOYS

The consequences of denying your loved ones the right to live authentically plays out in dramatic fashion in Cowboys, writer/director Anna Kerrigan’s moving film about a family in crisis. Starring the talented Steve Zahn and Jillian Bell as Troy and Sally, the divorced parents of 10-year-old transgender boy Jo (Sasha Knight), the film ultimately shows the power of unconditional love and acceptance.

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