4 Movies Like The Mask (1994)

Staff & contributors

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s new movie is about an arrogant European artist who tattoos a Syrian man's back, essentially turning the man's body into artwork. 

The man, as a commodity, is able to travel the world freely to be in art galleries, something as a simple human with a Syrian passport he couldn’t do. Seems unlikely? It’s based on a true story.

But Ben Hania is not really interested in the political statement aspect of this unlikely stunt. Instead, she looks at what this would do to a human-being, to the man's self-esteem, his relationships, and the turns his life takes. It's a fascinating movie.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrienne Mei Irving, Anissa Daoud, Christian Vadim, Darina Al Joundi, Fayçal Hassaĭri, Husam Chadat, Ichraq Matar, Ingo Brosch, Jacques Germain, Koen De Bouw, Marc de Panda, Monica Bellucci, Najoua Zouhair, Patrick Albenque, Rupert Wynne-James

Director: Kaouther Ben Hania

, 2004

Kristen Stewart stars as Melinda, a girl entering the gauntlet of freshman year in high school who is also carrying a heavy secret: after suffering an assault over the summer at a party, she has become determined to speak as little as possible. Melinda’s subjective experience is presented without mediation, melodrama nor moralism, but rather as life through her eyes: teachers are puff-chested bullies; parents are mumbling, ephemeral strangers; whispering girls are talking about her, all the time. It is a realistic portrait of the inner life and experience of a young woman whose sudden introversion, academic decline, and loss of social connections appear to go completely unnoticed, while she struggles to process and unburden herself of the weight of trauma. It’s an empathetic story well-served by Stewart’s understated performance and the film’s quiet pace.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allison Siko, Arron Kinser, Caitlyn Folley, D. B. Sweeney, Elizabeth Perkins, Eric Lively, Hallee Hirsh, Kristen Stewart, Leslie Lyles, Michael Angarano, Robert John Burke, Steve Zahn, Susan Gardner

Director: Jessica Sharzer

Iceland is a country of vast lands but limited population - only about 300,000 people can call themselves Icelandic. On the other hand, 8 million people have connecting flights through Iceland every year. 

In this setting of mass movement, a single mother dealing with poverty is offered a chance to turn things around - a job as a border agent. One of her first days, she comes across an asylum seeker on a connecting flight from Guinea Bissau to Canada, trying to cross with a fake passport. 

Their stories don’t only intertwine as border agent and asylum seeker, but as two mothers. And Breathe Normally is about struggling with poverty both in Europe and coming from a place like Guinea Bissau. It’s a beautiful, plot-heavy statement on the importance of solidarity and of seeing the human behind the country of origin or race. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ísold Uggadóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Bragi Arnason, Gunnar Jonsson, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Sólveig Guðmundsdóttir, Sveinn Geirsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann

Director: Isold Uggadottir

Rating: TV-14

The entirety of Pieces of April takes place on Thanksgiving Day, a busy holiday meant to bring loved ones together. Sure enough, April, the eldest Burns daughter, takes great pains to prepare a nice dinner for her visiting family. But we soon learn that she is motivated less by excitement than by dread: she's long been estranged, disowned even, by her uptight mother, Joy, who is only agreeing to come because she's sick with cancer. April seems to be on a reluctant mission to fix their fraught relationship, but pesky (albeit funny) mishaps, both on her and Joy's end, keep getting in the way. 

Shot digitally and very closely with hand-held cameras, Pieces of April looks as intimate as it feels. It's a snapshot of an era and of a particular family dynamic, one that relatably relies on both love and scorn to keep going. It's an excellent, honest, and underrated gem of a movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adrian Martinez, Alice Drummond, Alison Pill, Anney Giobbe, Armando Riesco, Birdie M. Hale, Derek Luke, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jamari Richardson, John Gallagher Jr., Katie Holmes, Leila Danette, Lillias White, Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, Rusty De Wees, Sally Leung Bayer, Sean Hayes, Sisqó, Stephen Chen, Susan Bruce, Vitali Baganov

Director: Peter Hedges

Rating: PG-13