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

Sarah is a successful lawyer, an Aboriginal Australian who lives with her husband Fergus, daughter, and newborn baby. Despite resisting the superstitions of her birth mother Ruth with whom she has a complex, at times difficult relationship, Sarah’s increasing feeling that something is trying to steal her baby escalates. She is forced to accept the reality that – despite her level-headedness – a nightmarish folkloric figure called the “moogai” is the culprit, and that Ruth may know more than Sarah had previously given her credit for. Woven into this journey, Sarah and Fergus also face the brutal reality that as comfortable as they may be in their urban, middle-class life, racism in Australia is as relentless as any monster.

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

COVID lockdown has hit New York City, and life for Terry Goon (John Early) is not going well. Freshly wounded from a recent divorce from a much older and wealthier man, Terry is broke and directionless, pouring his energies into caring for his 19-year-old Moroccan nephew Bahlul (Qaher Harhash) who has seriously injured his leg. They are staying in one of Terry’s ex-husband’s many properties, a temporary arrangement that only further compounds Terry’s feelings of disorientation. This is a feeling shared by others in his social circle, including his best friend Karla (Theda Hammel), an unemployed transgender lesbian who has her own relationship issues to contend with.

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VENI VIDI VICI (Sydney FF 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Amon Maynard (Laurence Rupp) is a billionaire with it all, and yet it is not enough. An influential businessman who has government ministers at his beck and call, a beautiful, adoring wife, and three daughters who idolize him, Maynard still craves satisfaction. This is the context within which the opening scene of Veni Vidi Vici introduces the The Most Dangerous Game ‘human hunt’ that sits at the heart of the movie. Maynard has become a kind of casual, part-time serial killer, a notorious sniper who randomly guns down unfortunate members of his community who have committed no offence greater than simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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