PILGRIMS (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Director Laaurynas Bareiša point blank refuses to fall into the expectations a crime film might otherwise render essential. What remains instead is something deeply sad and meandering as two people who loved someone who died in a horrible way work through their own emotions regarding the loss, and face the fact that there is nothing much they can do about it. There’s something so fundamentally true and humane about Pilgrims that is difficult to articulate, and that slipperiness is precisely what makes it so effective.

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PIGGY (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The unrelenting bullying Sara receives is made harder by the fact that one of those who participates in it was once a close friend. So when Sara witnesses the abduction of the bullies, any instinct to help is complicated by the sense that justice has prevailed. As Sara and the stranger responsible for the abductions increasingly cross paths, she is forced to address her own culpability and – more importantly – her own desire for vengeance. There’s nothing patronizing or moralizing about Piggy, and it’s all the better for it; simultaneously a strong character portrait and a twisted coming-of-age film, this is tough but satisfying viewing.

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MILLIE LIES LOW (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Inspired by first-time feature filmmaker Michelle Savill herself having missed an important, career-making international flight to France where she fleetingly wondered if she could just fake it until she made it, Millie Lies Low is a low-key exercise in embarrassment humor as we follow it’s protagonist from one cringe-inducing encounter to another. An enjoyable although not necessarily deeply probing film, Millie Lies Low is a charming but perhaps not exactly memorable way to kill an hour and a half or so.

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STARS AT NOON (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Stars at Noon is a seductive, sexy ride, and when we’re in it it’s a pleasant enough journey. Running at well over two hours, however, it does at times overstay its welcome, a result perhaps of a too-loyal commitment to its literary source material. Stars at Noon is a satisfying one night stand of a film; it’s pleasurable enough while it is happening, but the second it’s over it’s almost far too easy to forget.

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HOLY SPIDER (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Based on the true story of Saeed Hanaei who was responsible for killing 16 women across 2000 and 2001, the gritty true crime surfaces of the film barely disguise the intensity with which Ali Abbasi and his collaborators seek to reveal something much bigger about Iranian society, using this case as a shocking lens to see broader problems when it comes to gender politics. Tight, taut and not one beat out of place, Holy Spider captivates from start to finish; it gets its claws in and refuses to let go

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DECISION TO LEAVE (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

It’s been six years since Park Chan-wook swept audiences away with his lush, seductive The Handmaiden, but his recent Cannes Best Director award for his latest film Decision to Leave shows it was well worth the wait. A Hitchcockian crime thriller/romance right down to its core, all the signature traits that have wooed audiences around the world to the master Korean filmmakers work and garnered him the reputation as one of the best directors working in cinema today here abound. Elegant cinematography, complex characters and a curious tonal tug-of-war between a range of different emotions are again at the helm here in this tale of a homicide investigator who falls in love with a murder suspect.

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BROKER (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

As seen most famously in his Palme d’Or winning 2018 film Shoplifters, there is nothing Hirokazu Kore-eda seems to like more than tales about grifters told with compassion and humanity. Once again, the notion of “family” – defined in its loosest sense – lies at the heart of Broker. What is being brokered here are babies, but as one of the police women central to the film’s plot notes, to frame what is happening here as a “professional child trafficking ring” may be reductive and missing the point entirely of what is really at stake. Broker is a film about grifters, sure, but at its core it is a low-key but heartfelt, sincere and totally unique exploration of the wondrous, nuanced complexity of how people both survive and connect on a fundamental level.

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THE EXAM (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Kurdish director Shawkat Amin Korki’s unflinching feature, The Exam, packs an enormous punch by combining a probing examination of gender politics with the high-octane thrills of what ultimately feels like a heist movie. Greater than the sum of its parts, The Exam is riveting stuff.

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CLARA SOLA (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Clara Sola maps a woman’s journey of self-knowing. From the opening moments, cinematographer Sophie Winqvist captures what is to become a steady stream of shots that focus on Clara’s hands and fingers, with a conscious emphasis on touch; not just for Clara to touch things or extend her hands towards things just out of reach, but, perhaps just as importantly, to be touched.

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DUAL (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

At the film’s core lies that good old fashioned science fiction chestnut “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” when it comes to technological progress. But, of course, being a Stearns film the way science fiction manifests is notably without the whistles and bells so typical of the genre elsewhere. Rather, the basic premise – that we can pay to replace ourselves with genetically engineered doubles when we die to help assuage the pain and grief of our family and friends – comes into view almost matter-of-factly. Here, it is the tension between the film’s main character and her “replacement” that drives the narrative.

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