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Staff & contributors
Many things clash in this beautifully layered, semi-autobiographical film of American director Lulu Wang: cultures, morals, and emotions. The result is a type of comedy that is complex and bittersweet⁠—and based on a true lie: this is the story of a Chinese grandma whose family won't tell her that she is fatally ill. Instead, they organize a fake wedding in China, where everyone gets together to bid a farewell to the unwitting matriarch (played by Zhao Shuzhen). The fake wedding is, in fact, a premature funeral for a person unaware that she is going to die. Played by rapper and comedian Awkwafina, Billi, a New-York-based Chinese-American with a complicated relationship to China, embodies the cultural and moral question at the heart of this story: is it right or wrong not tell grandma? It is thanks to Wang's deft writing and Awkwafina's outstanding performance that The Farewell homes in on answers without ever being melodramatic. Warm, honest, and beautiful.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aoi Mizuhara, Awkwafina, Chen Han, Diana Lin, Gil Perez-Abraham, Hong Lu, Ines Laimins, Jiang Yongbo, Jim Liu, Lu Hong, Shuzhen Zhao, Tzi Ma, X Mayo, Yang Xuejian, Zhang Jing, Zhao Shuzhen

Director: Lulu Wang

Rating: PG

What goes well with a love story? Creative architecture. Columbus the movie is such a great and genuine exploration of this idea, filmed in Columbus the city - a weird experimental hub for architecture that actually exists in real life! After his architect father goes into a coma, Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus without a foreseeable end. In Korean tradition when a parent dies, the son should be in the same place physically otherwise they can't mourn. While waiting to see what will happen to his father he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an aspiring architect herself, who's also stuck in Columbus because of her mother. This is a beautiful movie with real-life issues and situations, to be especially appreciated by viewers who don't mind a slow narrative in exchange for a meticulously-crafted movie.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alphaeus Green, Jr., Caitlin Ewald, Erin Allegretti, Haley Lu Richardson, Jim Dougherty, John Cho, Lindsey Shope, Michelle Forbes, Parker Posey, Reen Vogel, Rory Culkin, Rosalyn R. Ross, Shani Salyers Stiles, Wynn Reichert

Director: Kogonada

Rating: Not Rated

Shot as a single day, it tells the story of college professor George (Colin Firth) who, unable to cope with the death of his partner months prior, resolves to commit suicide. The movie is not all dark, however, there are moving, deeply human encounters as George moves through his last day. Fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut and set in 1960s Los Angeles, it speaks powerfully of the colour-stripping effects of grief and loneliness. Fantastic performance also by Julianne Moore as Charley, an equally lonely and desperate character, but with a markedly different story. A Single Man is a gorgeous film in every sense of the word.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aaron Sanders, Adam Shapiro, Colin Firth, Elisabeth Harnois, Erin Daniels, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jenna Gavigan, Jon Hamm, Jon Kortajarena, Julianne Moore, Keri Lynn Pratt, Lee Pace, Matthew Goode, Melissa Goodwin Shepherd, Nicholas Hoult, Nicole Steinwedell, Paul Butler, Paulette Lamori, Ridge Canipe, Ryan Simpkins, Teddy Sears, Tricia Munford

Director: Tom Ford

Rating: R

It's smart that If You Were the Last takes what's usually an overused romcom/fan-fiction scenario (two attractive people stuck in one place), acknowledges it, and uses it to fuel an entire a story. Unfortunately, the film also doesn't quite know where to go with it, insisting on having its cake and eating it too: that is, it wants to be annoyingly quirky and dead-serious about the consequences of infidelity at once, without the tonal balance to sell these contrasting sides. It's hard to feel for the central characters and their respective spouses still living on Earth because the film does so little to sketch out any of these people beyond surface-level feelings of desire and guilt. As much as it tries to convince us that big changes are happening within these protagonists, the film doesn't seem to be willing to enter any truly messy territory.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Andrew Farrier, Anthony Mackie, Bernard Hocke, Geoff Stults, Jason Bayle, Kaleka, Langston Fishburne, Missi Pyle, Natalie Morales, Sarah Voigt, Taylor Shurte, Zoë Chao

Director: Kristian Mercado Figueroa

Rating: R

About My Father is clearly intended to be a cringe comedy a la Meet the Parents (it even features Robert De Niro as another grumpy dad), but it stretches the concept of “funny” so thin that the memory of that scene in which a cat pees on the contents of a smashed urn will feel like dizzying comic heights in comparison. The premise — an Italian-American man struggles to win the acceptance of his WASPish in-laws — might have made sense 100 years ago, but today, it strikes as farfetched. Even without that weak foundation, much of About My Father has a shaky grasp on what makes a movie work. The screenplay feels like the product of crudely stitching together several over-manufactured set-pieces, with the result being an almost total lack of fluidity and characters who often contradict themselves.

The film starts out on its worst foot: star–co-writer Sebastian Maniscalco lays the voiceover on thick, while Sebastian’s brash Sicilian father Salvo (De Niro) is so unceasingly negative that it turns a presence that should be great into one that’s only grating. Though it does find something of a footing as a saccharine family drama in its back half, it’s much too little, too late.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche, Kim Cattrall, Leslie Bibb, Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco

Director: Laura Terruso