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Staff & contributors
Capernaum is both the highest-grossing Middle Eastern movie of all time and the highest-grossing movie in Arabic of all time. Lebanese director Nadine Labaki was the first female Arab director to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Capernaum is thus duly considered a masterpiece, as it follows an angry 12-year-old kid in Lebanon, who leaves his negligent parents and tries to make it in the streets on his own. It's a tale of grinding poverty as experienced by a boy with a good heart, who meets many kindly people on the way as well as sinister characters. An acting tour de force by the fierce child actors, especially Zain Al Rafeea, Capernaum is harrowing, emotional, and, maybe, a touch melodramatic. However, it doesn't compromise when asking some hard questions about parental failure and love, putting them into the context of the bigger regional picture. It can be a tough watch, but the furious acting and pitch-black humor, ultimately, make this an uplifting movie, likely to stir up some debate.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alaa Chouchnieh, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Cedra Izzam, Elias Khoury, Fadi Kamel Yousef, Farah Hasno, Joseph Jimbazian, Kawsar Al Haddad, Nadine Labaki, Yordanos Shifera, Yordanos Shiferaw, Zain Al Rafeea

Director: Nadine Labaki

Rating: R

My Life as a Zucchini (or Courgette in Europe) is unlike any kids' movie you'll see in America. It isn't afraid to be honest about children's feelings, no matter how dark or sad, nor is it afraid to be frank about things like intimacy and abuse. It understands that kids need these kinds of narratives too, and sometimes they need to hear them without being pandered to. 

There is an openness to it that makes it comforting to adults as well. Lines like “Sometimes, we cry because we’re happy," are so deceptively simple and tender that they'll catch you off guard. Couple this seemingly endless reserve of empathy with adorable, almost melancholic stop-motion animation and you get a film that will have you floored for days, regardless of your age.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Romance

Actor: Brigitte Rosset, Michel Vuillermoz, Monica Budde, Natacha Koutchoumov, Paulin Jaccoud, Sixtine Murat

Director: Claude Barras

Rating: PG-13

Good movies usually aren't lengthy movies, unless we're talking about cases like Toni Erdmann. It's a supremely smart German-Austrian comedy that depicts the story of a Father-Daughter tandem in light of life’s weirdest, most inconvenient moments. Deciding to visit his daughter on a whim after his dog dies, Winfried (Peter Simonischek)—a man known for his outrageous pranks and many a disguise—flies to Bucharest. Ines (Sandra Huller), the daughter, buzzing with work to the brim in a very challenging job, to say the least, isn’t impressed. This leads to even more uncomfortable encounters as the estranged father poses as the title character, life coach to the disapproving daughter’s boss. On top of being a shrewdly observed and relevant movie, the brilliant writing by Maren Ade crafts something thoroughly enjoyable and heartfelt here, highlighting the importance of family bond in an oddly sweet way, and criticizing modern-day work ethic and the toll its taking on us. The beginning is a bit slow, but if you're a bit patient you will be surprised how much this movie will reward you.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexandru Papadopol, Andrei Mateiu, Bryan Jardine, Cezara Dafinescu, Cosmin Pădureanu, Dana Marineci, Daniel Filipescu, Hadewych Minis, Hans Löw, Hartmut Stanke, Ingrid Bisu, Ingrid Burkhard, Irene Rindje, John Keogh, Julischka Eichel, Jürg Löw, Luana Stoica, Lucy Russell, Manu Sabo, Manuela Ciucur, Michael Wittenborn, Miriam Rizea, Nicolas Wackerbarth, Niels Bormann, Ozana Oancea, Peter Simonischek, Radu Bânzaru, Ruth Reinecke, Sandra Hüller, Sava Lolov, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Putter, Ursula Renneke, Valentin Popescu, Victoria Cocias, Victoria Malektorovych, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Maren Ade

Rating: R

This is a star-packed movie about two brother assassins played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. You might have read the book of the same name, and it is always hard to make a great film out of a great book but the brilliant director of A Prophet Jacques Audiard has done it (again). He is aided by a superb darkly comic script and fantastic acting from the entire cast. Audiard is French, but his take on the American Western is filled with epic violence but also witty dialogue, brotherly love, and male camaraderie.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Western

Actor: Aidan O'Hare, Aldo Maland, Allison Tolman, Andrew Litvack, Carol Kane, Creed Bratton, David Gasman, Diego Llano, Duncan Lacroix, Eric Colvin, Frédéric Siuen, Hugo Dillon, Ian Reddington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jean-Marc Bellu, Joaquin Phoenix, Jochen Hägele, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, John C. Reilly, Kelda Holmes, Lenuta Bala, Lexie Benbow-Hart, Nick Cornwall, Patrice Cossonneau, Philip Rosch, Raymond Waring, Rebecca Root, Richard Brake, Riz Ahmed, Rutger Hauer, Sean Duggan, Theo Exarchopoulos, Trevor Allan Davies

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

If you’ve never heard of Sonia Braga, you’re in for a ride with this movie. She is, in my opinion, one of the best actresses alive today. In Aquarius, she stars as a 65-year-old trying to keep the home in which she pledged to die. In a quiet, yet stoically powerful performance, she reminds us that identity often intersects with the spaces in which we live.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allan Souza Lima, Arly Arnaud, Bárbara Colen, Bruno Goya, Buda Lira, Carla Ribas, Clarissa Pinheiro, Daniel Porpino, Edilson Silva, Fábio Leal, Fernando Teixeira, Germano Melo, Humberto Carrao, Irandhir Santos, Joana Gatis, Julia Bernat, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Lula Terra, Maeve Jinkings, Pedro Queiroz, Rubens Santos, Sônia Braga, Tavinho Teixeira, Thaia Perez, Zoraide Coleto

Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho

Rating: Not Rated

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

This incredibly creative and unique movie is set in a fictional small town in the Brazilian Backcountry. It has a realistic first half but things quickly get crazy.

Even in that realistic half, you can clearly tell that something is off about the town of Bacurau. An accident involving a truck carrying coffins turns into an impromptu coffin shop. A dam was built to divert water from people. The village doctor seems to be the least sane person in the village. It’s all wrong.

Bacurau is funny, it’s politically charged, it’s thrilling, and it’s sweet, all at once. It’s that one in a thousand weird movies that actually works, and will inevitably become a classic.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Western

Actor: Alli Willow, Antonio Saboia, Bárbara Colen, Bárbara Colen, Buda Lira, Chris Doubek, Clébia Sousa, Danny Barbosa, Edilson Silva, Eduarda Samara, Ingrid Trigueiro, James Turpin, Jamila Facury, Jonny Mars, Julia Marie Peterson, Karine Teles, Lia de Itamaracá, Luciana Souza, Rubens Santos, Silvero Pereira, Sônia Braga, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Thomás Aquino, Thomas Aquino, Udo Kier, Valmir do Côco, Wilson Rabelo, Zoraide Coleto

Director: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Kleber Mendonça Filho

Rating: 0

This realistic drama produced by the director of Toni Erdmann is about a group of German workers who are sent to the Bulgarian/Greek border to build a water pump.

Their arrogant leader harasses a local and flies a German flag, prompting a clash with the nearby village.

Unlike the reference of its title, Western doesn’t follow any format and is not interested in portraying violence. Instead, it’s a quiet look at how people handle social and cultural tensions.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifov

Director: Valeska Grisebach

Rating: Unrated

, 2016

Arch-provocateur Paul Verhoeven received widespread acclaim for his assured and darkly funny adaptation of Philippe Dijan’s award-winning novel, his first film in the French language. 

It’s a controversial revenge thriller about a domineering businesswoman who is raped in her home by a masked man. Refusing to let the attack affect her life, she refuses to report the incident and tracks down the assailant herself.

Verhoeven directs the material with confidence and a troubling lightness of touch, while fearless Isabelle Huppert gives one of the best performances of her long and illustrious career. Some people found Elle empowering while others felt it perpetuated misogynistic attitudes. Either way, it makes for a passionate post-viewing discussion.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alice Isaaz, Anne Consigny, Anne Loiret, Arthur Mazet, Caroline Breton, Charles Berling, Christian Berkel, David Léotard, Eric Savin, Fleur Geffrier, François Nambot, Hugo Conzelmann, Hugues Martel, Isabelle Huppert, Jean Douchet, Jean-Noël Martin, Jean-Yves Freyburger, Jina Djemba, Jonas Bloquet, Judith Magre, Laurent Lafitte, Laurent Orry, Loïc Legendre, Lucas Prisor, Marie Berto, Nicolas Beaucaire, Nicolas Ullmann, Oury Milshtein, Raphaël Kahn, Raphaël Lenglet, Stéphane Bak, Vimala Pons, Virginie Efira, Zohar Wexler

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

Based on a play and taking place in the span of one afternoon, It’s Only the End of the World is about a successful writer returning to his hometown in rural Canada baring life-altering news. But before he can share anything, he is faced with the remnants of his life prior to moving out and his family members’ eccentric, but relatable, personalities. This is a movie by one of the most interesting directors working today, Canadian Xavier Dolan. Contrary to his plot-heavy Mommy (which earned him the Cannes Jury Prize at 25 years old), in It’s Only the End of the World the story unfolds in a far more important way. It’s an exploration of dynamics: between brother and sister, between son and mother, between brothers, etc. Don’t go into it expecting things to happen, or waiting for what will happen in the end. Instead, the purpose of this film can be found in how Xavier Dolan handles his usual themes of family through big talent: Mario Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, and Léa Seydoux among many others.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Antoine Desrochers, Arthur Couillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Jenyane Provencher, Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Nathalie Baye, Patricia Tulasne, Sasha Samar, Stephan Dubeau, Théodore Pellerin, Vincent Cassel, William Boyce Blanchette

Director: Xavier Dolan

Rating: N/A, Not Rated