8 Movies Like About Dry Grasses (2023)

Staff & contributors
Monster is a deceptively simple story about growing up and the many misunderstandings that come with it. It’s told through different points of view, a technique that could easily feel gimmicky in the hands of a lesser director. But with director Hirokazu Kore-eda at the helm, it feels natural and inevitable, as if there was no other way to tell this specific story. It’s a masterful mystery, but Monster is less about suspense and answering the whodunnit question than it is about navigating the murky waters of truth and real life. As corny as it sounds, watching Monster is an experience unto itself: you’ll find yourself believing something one moment and dismantling it the next, learning and unlearning in a span of two hours. But as with past Kore-eda films, it’s the story’s heartwarming sensitivity that trumps everything. You’ll likely come for the mystery but stay for its heart.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Akihiro Kakuta, Ayu Kitaura, Daisuke Kuroda, Eita Nagayama, Hinata Hiiragi, Kayo Noro, Mitsuki Takahata, Moemi Katayama, Pee, Ryu Morioka, Sakura Andô, Shidô Nakamura, Soya Kurokawa, Yûko Tanaka

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Rating: PG-13

At nearly four hours long, A Brighter Summer Day is a sprawling, beautifully composed film that follows young Xiao Si’r and his eventual entanglements in nearly everything, from love to youth gangs to politics. While parts of the story, particularly its bone-chilling climax, are based on true events, the film is largely reconstructed from Edward Yang’s memories of the era he grew up in. As a result, the visuals feel crisp and true, tinged with just the right amount of nostalgia to balance the grittiness of its realism. 

As coming-of-age films go, A Brighter Summer Day is certainly more on the tragic side. It’s also seminal in its specificity and depth—an absolute must-watch for any and all filmgoers. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Yang, Chang Chen, Chang Han, Chang Kuo-chu, Chen Chang, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Chen Yiwen, Chiang Hsiu-Chiung, Chin Tsai, Chuan Wang, Danny Deng, Dao Nan Wang, Elaine Jin, Emily Y. Chang, Feng Guoqiang, Han Chang, Hsi-Sheng Chen, Hsu Ming, Joyce Ni Shu-Chun, King Shih-Chieh, Kuo-Chu Chang, Lang Tsu-Yun, Lawrence Ko, Liang-Tso Liu, Lisa Yang, Ni Shu-Chun, Ru-Yun Tang, Stephanie Lai, Tan Chih-Kang, Tang Ru-Yun, Tsu-Yun Lang, Wang Bosen, Wang Chi-tsan, Weiming Wang, Yi-Wen Chen

Director: Edward Yang

Rating: Not Rated

“Youth is a state of mind,” a poet once said — but, young in spirit though they are, the elderly artist couple at the center of this fly-on-the-wall documentary must confront the harsh reality that aging isn’t something the body can avoid. Jackie and Don Seiden — a yin-and-yang pair who describe themselves as “a mouse and a crocodile” — still argue and make up with all the fierce vitality of a couple half their age. They haven’t yet lapsed into living life through the rear-view mirror: both still actively make art, Don his sketches and Jackie her slideshows and found-object arrangements. They live in a creaking yet beautiful home, decorated exclusively in pastel colors; as Don puts it, they’ve “made a life that’s really unusual […] a life only [they] could’ve made.”

As his health issues — and the weakening of her ability to care for them — threaten the end of that 50-year-long chapter in their lives, the couple confront mortality and find it brings them holding ever tighter to one another. Their abiding mutual affection makes this documentary a moving portrait of enduring love, while their fiery intellectual verve gives it a sharp honesty that prevents it from ever lapsing into sentimentality.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Daniel Hymanson

A great example of frank, emotionally honest filmmaking with three totally vulnerable lead performances, Passages takes a subject that can so easily be reduced into clichés—infidelity—and approaches it with a genuine sense of melancholy. It can still be frustrating to watch fully developed adults refuse to communicate more clearly about their feelings, but director and co-writer Ira Sachs also understands the nuanced gender dynamic that informs some of these bad decisions. Tomas understands that his commitment to Martin may not give him the "easy" satisfaction of a traditional romance, but there is also a sense that his attraction to Agathe (supposedly the first time he's truly fallen for a woman) might be more of an impulsive attempt to settle for something safer, something that he has more control over.

Ben Whishaw is reliably sympathetic as Martin, and Adèle Exarchopoulos carries herself with the unembellished authenticity that many of the best French actors do. And Franz Rogowski makes Tomas both entirely pathetic and still so very heartbreaking in the predicament he's put himself into. There are no cheap histrionics or outbursts of emotion here—just performers living fully within each moment and selling us on the situation they're in.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Arcadi Radeff, Ben Whishaw, Caroline Chaniolleau, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Franz Rogowski, Olivier Rabourdin, Radostina Rogliano, Théo Cholbi, William Nadylam

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: NR

, 2023

Visual artist Ann Oren's first foray into feature-length filmmaking is a sensual delight and a gift that keeps on giving. Oren approaches her film with sincere dedication to every single building block: Piaffe looks, sounds, and feels sensational while being a fairly modest production. A true indie film, Piaffe verges on experimentation as a young woman named Eva (Simone Bucio) takes over the job of a foley artist from her sister. Even though she's under-qualified, she tries her best t0 come up with the sounds for a horse-themed commercial to no avail. However, in the process, she notices a bump on her lower back that grows into a horse's tail. Piaffe is a tale of metamorphosis, not only of the flesh, but also of the heart, as the themes it explores are also directly related to sexuality, submission, and, of course, love as a manifestation of all those things.

Genre: Thriller

Actor: Bjørn Melhus, Josef Ostendorf, Lea Draeger, Nico Ehrenteit, Sebastian Rudolph, Simon(è) Jaikiriuma Paetau, Simone Bucio, Tristan Bumm

Director: Ann Oren

Sometimes, especially when you’ve gone without it for so long, you would do anything for a shred of respect. LaRoy, Texas depicts exactly that, with a store owner Ray being so unwilling to stand up for himself that his wife cheats on him with his brother, who steals from the family business. It's a terrible situation to be in, of course, but it's played out in a dry, comedic way, as detective-wannabe Skip pokes on the wound when trying his best to solve the case, and as each surprise reveals how terribly incompetent the small town deals with things. While it doesn't quite compare to the neo-Westerns of Coen brothers it’s inspired by, LaRoy, Texas is both fun and tragic, and a promising debut for writer-director Shane Atkinson.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Actor: A.J. Buckley, Alex Knight, Bob Clendenin, Brad Leland, Brannon Cross, Darcy Shean, Dylan Baker, Emily Pendergast, Galadriel Stineman, Ian A. Hudson, John Magaro, Matthew Del Negro, Megan Stevenson, Mimi Fletcher, Rio Alexander, Steve Zahn, Teagan Ireland, Vic Browder

Director: Shane Atkinson

It might not teach you the basics of cricket but Fire in Babylon uses the sport as an entertaining entry point into the discrimination faced by Caribbean peoples around the 1970s. The footage we see of actual cricket games is kept to the simplest elements, but what ultimately leaves a stronger impression are the lively testimonials from the documentary's many talking heads, injecting this historical account with a generous amount of personality. From the hip West Indian soundtrack to the unabashed pride that fuels every anecdote, this feels like a film that's genuinely being told by its characters, and not from an outsider's point of view.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Bunny Wailer, Clive Lloyd, Colin Croft, Viv Richards

Director: Stevan Riley

The concept of Maaveeran is downright brilliant. As the timid comic strip writer is forced to be as brave as the hero he created, there’s something here that encourages its audience to listen to the yearnings already inside them. It allows for some cartoonish comedy that comes across as earnest. However, there's a certain hesitancy in the writing that makes the film’s second half a letdown. The film sticks too long to its protagonist’s cowardice that there’s so little time to wrap everything up. It’s still entertaining till the end, but a better sense of pacing would have kept the first half’s riveting comedy, and would have made a better case for being a hero.

Genre: Action, Drama

Actor: 'Jeeva' Ravi, Aditi Shankar, Balaji Sakthivel, Dhileban, Madhan Kumar Dhakshinamoorthy, Mysskin, Ravi Teja, Saritha, Semmalar Annam, Sivakarthikeyan, Sunil Varma, Suresh Chakravarthy, Vijay Sethupathi, Yogi Babu

Director: Madonne Ashwin