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Staff & contributors

, 2023

Renowned choreographer Benjamin Millepied brings an 1875 opera leaping into the 21st century with this modern retelling — through dance and drama — of Carmen. The plot is reimagined along the US border and recenters the titular character (Melissa Barrera), a newly orphaned refugee from Mexico making her way to her godmother (a fabulous Rossy de Palma) in LA. In places, Carmen recalls Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet: aided by Nicholas Britell’s operatic score, it embraces its grand origins to evoke a star-crossed sense of looming tragedy over the romance that blossoms when reluctant border patrol guard Aidan (Paul Mescal) saves Carmen’s life and flees with her to California. 

Where Carmen really soars is in its translation of drama into dance. It’s an inspired move, pairing this almost mythical story with such a primal medium — but, while the movie achieves visceral emotion that words would struggle to produce in its choreographed scenes, there’s something lacking in the moments where dialogue is crucial. The conversations never move as fluidly as the dancing bodies do, and the passion and the fury falter as a result. That being said, this is largely still a boldly inventive filmmaking experiment, one that spotlights the thrilling potency of pure movement as a storytelling medium.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Benedict Hardie, Elsa Pataky, Kaan Guldur, Kevin MacIsaac, Melissa Barrera, Morgan Smallbone, Nico Cortez, Nicole da Silva, Paul Mescal, Pip Edwards, Richard Brancatisano, Rossy de Palma, Tara Morice, The D.O.C., Zac Drayson

Director: Benjamin Millepied

Relationships mostly come and go, but to some lucky people, they find love early, hold onto it, and never let it go. Holding the Man is a drama based on a memoir on a fifteen year love affair between John Caleo and writer Tim Conigrave, who first met in high school, and chose to stay with each other despite parental disapproval, diagnoses, and same-sex activity being illegal. While Ryan Corr and Craig Stott do seem unconvincing as high school students, they share a realistic, endearing chemistry that makes you hope for a happy ending for the two, despite the knowledge of what they would have to face that decade. The film captures the nostalgia of the times in such a relaxed way, while also sticking to the frank tone of the book. Holding the Man reminds us to cling to the people we love, because there might be a time where we cannot.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anthony LaPaglia, Craig Stott, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Jacob Collins-Levy, Kerry Fox, Lee Cormie, Ryan Corr, Sarah Snook, Tony Rickards

Director: Neil Armfield

Rating: NR

In certain heartbreaking instances, children are separated from their parents by the State, supposedly in hopes of finding them a better home. But for plenty of British and commonwealth orphans, the government process is, at worst, systematically designed to separate families to support the Kingdom’s colonies. While the film isn’t really focused on the details and the rationale behind the program, Oranges and Sunshine is much more concerned with the fact that it happened– that it has harmed hundreds of thousands of children for hundred years, and that it only took someone who cared enough to pay attention for things to actually change. It’s a decent depiction of Margaret Humphreys’ work, and it does a great job in promoting the Child Migrants Trust.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aisling Loftus, Barbara Marten, Carolina Giammetta, Chrissie Page, David Wenham, Emily Watson, Geoff Morrell, Greg Stone, Harvey Scrimshaw, Hugo Weaving, Kate Rutter, Lorraine Ashbourne, Mandahla Rose, Marg Downey, Molly Windsor, Richard Dillane, Robert Purdy, Russell Dykstra, Stuart Wolfenden, Tanya Myers, Tara Morice

Director: Jim Loach

, 2022

You can tell that Blaze director Del Kathryn Barton is an award-winning visual artist first and foremost. The images that she puts together in this film are frequently stunning—making use of the camera in fascinating, freeing ways, and with lots of practical and computer-generated/animated effects that paint her young protagonist Blaze's world in glitter and feathers and lush colors. The imaginary dragon, which acts as a shorthand to symbolize Blaze's complex psychological response to her trauma, is a wonderfully tactile life-size puppet that lead actress Julia Savage responds to in an entirely convincing way.

But you can also tell that this is Barton's debut feature. Ultimately her visuals don't do enough to shake off or give meaning to the graphic scene of rape and murder that occurs at the beginning of the film. And the way she structures the movie threatens to make it feel like a series of music videos or video art pieces. Despite its originality and the level of commitment displayed by both Savage and Simon Baker, Blaze has difficulty communicating a coherent message about trauma—the film strung together by heavy-handed scenes that spell out various ideas and lead to the most obvious conclusions.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Bernie Van Tiel, Heather Mitchell, John Waters, Josh Lawson, Julia Savage, Morgan Davies, Neal Horton, Rebecca Massey, Remy Hii, Simon Baker, Stephen James King, Will McDonald, Yael Stone

Director: Del Kathryn Barton