29 Contributions by: Sonia Botsarova

Staff & contributors

Set in 1650 against the backdrop of the English colonization of Ireland, Wolfwalkers follows the story of Robyn, a young apprentice hunter who arrives in Ireland with her father to wipe out the last wolf pack. Completing the “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” Tomm Moore’s film is a tale of sisterhood, friendship, and acceptance told with phenomenal artistry. Beautifully animated, with warm autumn colors and refined attention to detail, the film is beyond pleasing to the eye. The outstanding voice work from Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker, along with a well-written and emotionally compelling story, make Wolfwalkers a unique animation experience for young viewers and adults alike. 

Co-produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli and directed by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is a tale about a man shipwrecked on a desert island whose fate is changed upon meeting a giant turtle. Beautiful images are pulled together and combined with the film’s delicate symbolism about humanity and nature, in a story told with remarkable restraint. The only sound in the movie is that of nature and the film’s beautifully relaxing score. Using only simple ingredients, The Red Turtle is an enigmatic, captivating, and highly-recommended gem that, after all, encompasses life itself.

Director Zhang Yimou, who already has remarkable wuxia films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers under his belt, delivers another exceptional epic. Set during China's Three Kingdoms era (220–280 AD), Shadow revolves around a great king and his people, who are expelled from their homeland but will aspire to reclaim it. The story requires a fair amount of patience at first, as it slowly builds a world consisting of various characters with different motives, before the real action begins. The journey through Shadow is visually pleasing thanks to its stunning cinematography, impressively choreographed combat, and overall brilliant production design. Packed with sequences that will take your breath away, it is an inventive martial arts epic with one amazing scene after another.

Amour is about Anne and Georges, an elderly couple who face challenges in their relationship after Anne suffers a debilitating stroke. They're portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in what can only be described as a masterclass in acting. It's a challenging story but it's a realistic portrayal of love later in life and in the face of time. Directed by Michael Haneke, the movie was met with widespread acclaim from critics when it came out in 2012, winning the Palme d'Or as well as the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Another indie zombie movie? Far from it. One Cut of the Dead, written and directed by Shin'ichirô Ueda, became a global sensation following its small theatrical run in Japan for its creative and original screenplay. A hack director and film crew are shooting a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility when they are attacked by real zombies. That’s all you need to know about the plot, as the film is full of surprises that will catch you off guard. Wondering how an independent film with a budget of just $25,000 was able to gross over $30 million worldwide? The answer lies in the film itself. 

After neglecting previous invitations, Leyla, a lawyer and a poet, decides to take an overnight train to finally attend a school reunion. On the train, she meets Canan, a young nursing student who dreams of becoming an actress. The two of them form a unique connection that will lead them to an unusual journey. 

Something Useful is about how, when dealing with pain and disappointment, art—and especially poetry– can help by revealing the beauty behind everyday moments. It's a wonderful film with beautiful photography and impressive performances. 

A Spanish orchestra conductor receives a break-up message from his girlfriend before she vanishes, only to find himself as one of the police suspects behind her disappearance. Sounds like just another thriller? Far from it. To fully appreciate how the film

shies away from the genre, you have to be patient and make sure you don’t look up any information before you watch it. The story is very easy to follow and entertaining with its plot twists and flashbacks, while the three lead actors offer gripping performances. If you enjoy thrillers and Latin American cinema, make sure you don’t miss this one.

This fun comedy-drama is about Bridget, a 34-year-old who hasn't quite got it all figured out, but at least she’s trying: after terminating an accidental pregnancy, she gets herself a summer gig as a nanny for a fearless six-year-old by the name of Frances. 

Tackling a myriad of "taboo" topics including abortion, menstruation, and depression, the movie visually normalizes human experiences that remain underrepresented in mainstream cinema. And writer Kelly O’Sullivan, who also plays Bridget, has a screenplay that manages to do it all without feeling didactic.

Set between the years 1977 and 2005, this Polish drama goes through various stages in the life of the controversial surrealist-expressionist painter Zdzisław Beksiński. The extensive video archive left behind by the artist was used to craft an intimate portrait of three interdependent people: Beksiński himself, his suicidal and neurotic son, and his wife.

Beksiński is superbly played by veteran actor Andrzej Seweryn, known for his appearance in numerous Andrzej Wajda films. Even though the film focuses less on Zdzisław's painting career and more on his relationship with his family, it will definitely inspire you to dig deeper into both his tragic life and impressively dark body of work. 

This moving biopic is about Maud Lewis, the legendary Canadian painter who suffered from arthritis. In the film, Maud gets away from her controlling family by finding a job as a live-in housekeeper for a local fish peddler. It is there where she begins to paint, before marrying the fish peddler in spite of their different personalities. Sally Hawkins, who plays Lewis, brings undeniable spark and soul to the role, for which she had to undergo an astonishing physical transformation.

Maudie is a beautiful and uncomplicated film that challenges the conventions of marriage and relationship roles, while at the same time celebrating Maud Lewis’ paintings and life’s simple pleasures.

Jenna is a young woman living a rather unhappy life in a town in the American South. The highlight of her days is inventing and baking pies at the diner where she works, giving them names like the “I Hate My Husband Pie”. Her life, however, seems to have hit an unpleasant dead-end: as her pie suggests, she no longer loves her chauvinistic pig of a husband and, as if that wasn’t enough, she’s pregnant with his child.

Waitress is about one woman’s determination to dig through the sourness of life in the hopes of finding a layer of sweetness underneath. Premiering only months after lead actress Adrienne Shelly’s tragic death at the age of 40, Waitress features wonderful performances that make for a delicious film, with the right ingredients to hold everything together.

This adaptation of a foundational work in Estonian literature is about an idealistic 19th-century farmer who is determined to turn his piece of land into a fruitful homestead. Things don’t go as expected because once confronted with his neighbor’s antagonistic nature he transforms from a loving family man to a bullying patriarch. 

Directed by the talented Tanel Toom and shot by Rein Kotov (the cinematographer behind the war drama 1944), Truth and Justice is a beautifully made adaptation Combining elements like a classic plot, radiant images, with a modern score from Mihkel Zilmer, this film-mirror of the Estonian's soul is not to be missed.

Amy Berg’s documentary offers an insightful account of one of the most revered and iconic rock and roll singers of all-time, from her musical rise in the 1960s to her battle with alcohol and heroin addiction. Janis Joplin’s independent spirit and sense of not fitting in are meticulously presented in the film through archival footage, rare personal letters, and interviews with her school friends, family members, and fellow musicians. Powerfully narrated by musician Cat Power, Janis: Little Girl Blue presents a profoundly nuanced and very personal portrait of Janis Joplin, in a well-curated homage to an artist who changed music forever.