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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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 January 3, 2020: SPEED OF LIFE

What if, instead of being a space oddity, the infinitely creative David Bowie was actually a time and space oddity, and his passing literally ripped a hole in the universe? That’s the intriguing premise of Liz Manashil’s charming indie dramedy Speed of Life, which centers on an avid Bowie fan named June whose life takes a very unexpected twist after Bowie’s untimely death in 2016.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Dec 6, 2019: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

A picture is worth a thousand words — and leads to a thousand longing glances — in writer/director Celine Sciamma’s passionate drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Set in remote mid-1700s Brittany, it follows the increasingly intense relationship between painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant) and her unknowing subject, Heloise (Adele Haenel), who has just left sheltered convent life.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 29, 2010: HALA

Just like romcoms, coming-of-age dramas often feel so familiar that it’s easy to be tempted to write them all off as trite or predictable. And then along comes a smart, engaging film like “Hala,” which brings fresh energy to the whole genre simply by reminding us how many diverse coming-of-age stories we haven’t yet heard.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 15, 2019: ATLANTICS

Dreamy and full of unexpected twists, Mati Diop’s narrative debut Atlantics — Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival — is simultaneously a tender tale of star-crossed lovers, an eerie ghost story, and a gritty procedural. That unusual combination keeps it surprising and engaging throughout and underlines writer/director Diop’s notable talent.

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