In a Turkish village five sisters innocently set off a scandal that causes their uncle and grandmother to over-react and begin arranging marriages for them.
The telling of "Mustang" has the feel of a fable. There's just enough dialogue to provide context, and the story unfolds with a reliance on visual images which gives it an almost dreamlike quality. Tension builds as the sisters become more rebellious, unable to accept the life the patriarchal and conservative village elders would resign them to. Not only women will feel the outrage of a feminist. Sisters doing it for themselves.
God WillingAnne Murphy
When a man announces that he is leaving medical school to become a priest there are various reactions from his family.
The question at the centre of this plot is around what we should believe and what can be trusted - science or faith? "God Willing" doesn't delve deeply into the question, and the very nature of a dilemma is the lack of a conclusive answer. This Italian comedy of manners has a slightly farcical touch. The good looking cast play for laughs, and it's impossible not to find the light-heartedness of this infectious movie and enjoy it. God bless.
Donnie DarkoAnne Murphy
A bright teenager, who realises his experiences are bit weirder than most, is visited by a six-foot tall rabbit which suggests he indulge in destructive pranks.
A complex story that illustrates experiences beyond the routine and rational, this is a true psycho-drama, a story of alienation and detachment from reality. Sometimes it's hard to discern what is real and what is imagined, much like life from the perspective of the heavily medicated protagonist. The realism in the depiction of unusual thoughts and hallucinations is effective and compelling. This is an original and unsettling cult classic. Darko Darkness.
A Perfect DayAnne Murphy
Bosnia and the war is over but the conflict is not, a team of aid workers need a length of rope to resolve a crisis.
"A Perfect Day" is an insightful movie that doesn't try to explain the atrocity of war. This is a deceptively simple story told from the outskirts of a landscape of devastation. There are no combat scenes but every human encounter is entrenched in a perilous battle zone. You connect with the pervading sense of hopelessness when every attempt to lend aid is thwarted, intermittently lifted by dark humour and a wry approach. Tomorrow is another day.
Hello, My Name Is DorisAnne Murphy
After her mother dies a woman goes through a late-life-crisis and falls for a much younger man.
The central character is vulnerable and quirky, and thanks to the good grace of the director, she is portrayed with sensitivity. Humour is developed without mocking and we're allowed to feel a genuine empathy with a lonely hoarder who owns a single cat. She also has a vintage wardrobe and retro style that is to die for. All in all, "Hello My Name is Doris" is a well-structured movie that is likely to appeal to discerning audiences who like some complexity from a rom-com. Love, whatshername.
A mother and her 4 year old boy are confined to live in a small room, held hostage by their captor.
From its stark opening, "Room" creates a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, which slowly untangles during the course of this utterly heartbreaking and enthralling tale. The dark premise is only a launch-pad to the true heart of the story: a beautifully realised relationship between a broken mother and her curious son. We're granted a thoughtful insight, especially through the eyes of the little boy, whose mind is imagined and captured in extraordinary fashion. Exploring these themes of freedom and assimilation in a such a relatable and poignant way make it a true triumph. Make room.
Hunt for the WilderpeopleAnne Murphy
A manhunt is mounted when a young boy and his foster carer take to the bush rather than let the authorities move the boy to another home.
"Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is a surprisingly droll yet down to earth adventure tale, a disarmingly simple movie loaded with meaningful social context. All of the whimsy and grit of dyed-in-the-wool New Zealand characters are captured, and the dialogue between the duo-on-the-run is wry and snappy. The action might be comic, but it's the emotionally honest central relationship that holds all of the interest. Wild thing, you make my heart sing.
Mia MadreAnne Murphy
A film director tries to keep the camera rolling while she copes with her dying mother in her personal life.
"Mia Madre" is an intimate drama about family, raising a daughter and letting a mother leave. The central character is a film director, her movie shoot spiralling out of control while at the same time struggling to hold her personal life together. It is the recognisable lot of any working woman but it's all amplified to fit into a movie length story. Sadly there are not enough emotional hooks to keep us fully connected. Mumma Mia.
Purple RainAnne Murphy
The Kid is making his way as a performer with his band The Revolution, battling his inner demons and falling in love.
The screen belongs to the central performer of this film, and his music and moves are as mesmerising as is his mascara. Forget the barely there script and the stilted performances of the supporting cast, and allow yourself to be hypnotised by the singer - you know the one. There are a few too many macho aggressive moments that only serve to confirm the superficiality of the story-line, but all is redeemed by the leading man and his songs, the artist formerly known as Prince.
A Month of SundaysAnne Murphy
A real-estate agent fumbles through mid-life circumstances, navigates encounters with people from his present and his past.
"A Month of Sundays" is a warm movie where the central character is mired in his less than fulfilling life and uninspired about any future prospects. He is downbeat about his lot, and even working in the buoyant housing market fails to lift his outlook. The introspective nature of the story means that the screen action is a little slow, fortunately the funk lifts and we're delivered a satisfactory, but not so memorable, viewing experience in the end. Wish it was Monday.
A day in the life of a Footscray Pawn shop owner and the characters who inhabit the neighbourhood.
The most striking element of "Pawno" is how well observed the characters are. The players assembled by this independent filmmaker are familiar and recognisable, from the scallywags to the battlers, each embodying a part of a quintessentially Australian psyche. There are many story-lines woven into the episodic plot, and a lot of emotional territory is traversed while not straying too far from a particularly interesting shop in a suburb known for its diversity. It's all here, astute and darkly colourful. Pawn stars.
In 1920's France, Marguerite Dumont is a wealthy woman and aspiring Opera singer, however everyone around her is afraid to tell her she can't sing.
"Marguerite" is a story about the power of wealth and perils of social courtesies. From the onset, it's very clear the well-intentioned lover of music cannot sing, and her naivety is only matched by the cowardice of her peers. They're all afraid to tell her the truth, and it's that awkward conversation she has with everyone unfortunate enough to hear her voice that provides the most delight. But there's more to this film than purely amusing theatrics. While the point is hammered home loudly, it dolefully explores a woman yearning for her husband. Poor Marguerite.
Two brothers in Iceland who don't speak to each other are united in their efforts to save their flocks from being destroyed for a suspected disease.
"Rams" can be viewed as a complex, understated drama in an interesting setting that leaves the viewer to connect threads that are not overly explained. Conversely you may find yourself nodding off after counting sheep while the story plods on. There's no denying the beauty of the desolate landscape and the quality of the cinematography, but this movie will be most appreciated by those with a well-developed sense of the bizarre. Baa or bah?
Eye in the SkyAnthony Macali
A military operation to capture terrorists in Kenya comes under question when the request for a drone strike to bomb the target causes a heated debate across government factions.
"Eye in the Sky" might be divisive in nature, but the thrills and tension it provides are unquestionable. Although lacking certain subtleties, it incisively poses the question: "What is an acceptable cost of life to kill a terrorist?" The conundrum is debated with great vigour from the superb global cast, creating a captivating drama. Favouring back-room politics over guns and explosions, this film successfully reveals how modern warfare is controlled by static soldiers behind computer screens. Eye for suspense.
A documentary about the role of Sherpas on Everest was being filmed in 2014 when an ice fall resulted in a significant loss of life.
The ways of Sherpas and mountain climbers are brought into sharp relief in this engrossing social commentary. Much of what we witness beggars belief, as the camera captures entrenched exploitation, all exacerbated by different belief systems and communication styles. Day-to-day activities highlight the inequalities, climbers enjoy a hot towel and a cup of tea brought to their tent, while Sherpas carry supplies including a toilet up the mountain. Appalled in Nepal.
The WitchAnne Murphy
A devout family of Puritans, in early colonial America, are outcast from their community.
"The Witch" gets off to a flying start. Pardon the pun as there are no broomsticks involved, and this film is without humour. The story does start well and builds some tension, but ultimately fails to deliver any real spine-tingling chills. The offering is not all that satisfying as we're left to interpret the action, and it's a bit too open ended. What did happen? Does religious fervour invite evil acts? What we do know is that this is an atmospheric folk-tale, or a moralistic warning. No cackles.
A Bigger SplashAnne Murphy
A taut drama is played out when a music producer visits a singer on an Italian island where she is recuperating with her partner.
A sun-drenched holiday by a pool is no simple matter when much more is bared than naked flesh. "A Bigger Splash" is a sophisticated and complex melodrama centred on relationships. You can't help but enjoy the flaunting of hedonism that only comes of pure narcissism. There are plenty of dark undertones, and the story is one to keep audiences guessing. There's a delicious tension knowing the unexpected is coming. In hindsight though, the symbolism employed is annoyingly blatant. Making waves.
The Lady in the VanAnne Murphy
The true story of an eccentric woman who lived in her van for 15 years while parked in the driveway of a playwright.
This is one of those stories where fact is stranger than fiction. The performance from the actor who plays the lady herself is fabulous, a perfect portrayal of a lonely but cantankerous and independent woman who has her wits about her. Mystery surrounds the character, and our discoveries about her are revealed like jigsaw pieces. The full picture isn't portrayed, not in all those years. Restrained, polite, and very English. Van in no man's land.
45 YearsAnne Murphy
News from the past disturbs a couple as they prepare for a party to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Apparently you can learn something about your spouse that causes you to question everything about a life shared across decades. Really? It is a shaky premise for a movie if you believe marriage is a partnership rather than some form of ownership. There is something very perturbing about the central couple if their life as a "we" cannot accommodate some "me" about things in the past. Maybe they are just uncomfortably British and repressed. Can you keep a secret?
Son of SaulAnne Murphy
In Auschwitz in 1944, prisoners made up the Sonderkommando, groups who had to dispose of the bodies of their own people.
Watching "Son of Saul" feels akin to being in hell, such is the honesty of this holocaust drama. The film-making is extraordinary in recreating the full horror of the death camps and delivering an intense cinematic experience while keeping the audience riveted to the screen. There's no looking away as we bear witness to it all through one man's eyes. We observe something more gruelling than any imagined living-torment; the overwhelming horror of an unimaginable hell on earth. Devastating.
The biography of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted for his political beliefs during the McCarthy era.
In this story, an important piece of film history is found in the hysteria of the 1940's and 50's that saw many in the industry tarred as red and barred from working for their political views. "Trumbo" speaks to the both fear and moral courage of the time, served with a generous sprinkle of humorous eccentricities. This is an engrossing tale of villains and egos with a well-acted cast of characters, each with an uncanny physical resemblance to the real person being portrayed. And the winner is...
In the 1950s a young Irish girl migrates to Brooklyn, where she must learn to fall on her feet.
"Brooklyn" is an old-fashioned, simple, and exquisitely told romance story. It's a gorgeous looking film with the perfect match of characters and locales. For most parts the film dailies along, anchored by mesmerising performances that bring it to life and draw the emotion. The lead features in almost every frame, and could not be better cast. Her portrayal is wonderful to watch, as we observe her character learn, grow and shine in the limelight. Immigrants unite... this is an incredibly charming voyage.
Michael Stone, an author on customer service, checks into a hotel and goes in search for some excitement to introduce to his relatively dull life.
"Anomalisa" is a curious observation of the mundanity of life, and the effect its simple premise will have on you is fascinating. It's a mesmerising stop-motion animation, and despite an unusual choice of visuals, it remains a deeply human story that deftly explores the beauty of romance in a largely uneventful day. In its search for meaning, there are many droll moments, but also scenes of personal insight that offer a profoundly relatable experience. A beautiful mystery.
Boston 2002 and a team of journalists investigate decades of sexual abuse by the clergy and its systemic cover-up by the Catholic Church.
The story is familiar, and "Spotlight" hammers home the betrayal of the communities where abuse was perpetrated, often within schools and always by people who were revered and implicitly trusted. The script is excellent, bringing both respect for the victims and damnation for the cover-up. The other point this movie drives is about the value of 'old school' investigative journalism, mostly thanks to an excellent cast and a few notepads (paper ones). Spot on.
1950s New York, a shy young woman and a sophisticated older woman discover a mutual attraction after an encounter in a department store.
"Carol" proves to be as complicated as it is elegant, with a constrained mood that reflects the conservative social mores of the period. The central romance requires a discretion that is perfectly captured by the director in a series of seductively framed small moments. Every element is exquisite, from the refined costumes to the vintage period set details. The desire and longing between the two women is so palpable you can feel your own heart aching. Adulation.