In Action

In Action (2020)

In Action opens in medias res with Sean and Eric waking up, semi-naked and tied to chairs in a dark basement hellhole, and unsure where exactly they are, how they got there or why it smells like ‘poop’.  “It’s like an interrogation room,” observes Eric, “something you see out of a movie” – to which…

Touch

Touch (2020)

In the opening scene of Touch, Fei Fei (Aleksandra Szczepanowska) is at a police station, discussing – with mounting frustration – the bureaucratic hurdles to her acquisition of Permanent Residency. Fei Fei may be dressed in an elegant cheongsam, she may be fluent in Cantonese, she may be married to the wealthy Zhang Hua (Jun…

Externo

Externo (2021)

Externo opens with a forward rush (in monochrome) through an animated Eden – and with a long, wheedling disclaimer. Bold red text tells us that the film is “based on a true story and some stories that have been told”, but then insists that its characters and events are fictional, and that “the reality that…

Keeping Business

Keeping Company (2021)

A hoodied drug dealer is abducted from the street at night by bespectacled driver Lucas (Jacob Grodnik), who is fixated, Psycho-like, with his dead mother, and still living under the thumb of his domineering grandmother (Suzanne Savoy). A District Attorney (William Russ) campaigns for re-election under the motto ‘sweep the streets’ – and his name,…

Paradise Cove

Paradise Cove (2021)

“Nice place to be homeless,” says Knox Bannett (Todd Grinnell), just after he has handed over a fiver to mendicant war veteran Rodney (Scott Anthony Leet) at the beginning of Martin Guigui’s Paradise Cove. The ‘nice place’ is Malibu, California, famed for its its extended coastal strip, its sun and its surf. Knox has arrived…

Trans

Trans (2021)

Trans begins with a low-angle shot of an open window. It is the view from the classroom desk where Minyoung (Hwang Jeong-in) is currently slumped asleep, and a portal to a wider world beyond the schoolgirl’s confinement to her own adolescent problems. Minyoung does feel trapped. She wakes in a daze to watch two of…

Other Side

The Other Side (Andra Sidan) (2020)

“Inspired by real events”, reads the text that opens The Other Side (Andra Sidan). The claim cannot be true, of course, unless you believe in the actual existence of shape-shifting, child-snatching demons – but what you will immediately notice in writing/directing team Tord Danielsson and Oskar Mellander’s feature debut (following their long careers in television)…

Mara (Pobochnyi effekt)

Mara (Pobochnyi effekt) 2020

“I won’t live in a mausoleum,” complains singer/composer Olya (Marina Vasileva), in Mara, of the grand if monolithic apartment building into which she is about to move temporarily with her husband Andrey (Semyon Serzin). “Come on,” Andrey insists more encouragingly, “it’s a constructivist landmark!” In a way, they are both right about the nature of…

Glint

The Glint of Darkness: Revolution (2020)

Shaarath Vihari’s The Glint of Darkness: Revolution is something of a misfit. It comes with a duration of 51 minutes, falling awkwardly somewhere above the 40-minute bar set by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute for a film to qualify as a feature, but…

Sweet River

Sweet River (2020)

Justin McMillan’s Sweet River takes place in Billins, a small rural town in the north of New South Wales that has experienced more than its fair share of tragedy. A school bus swerved off the road into the river there, drowning all inside but the driver (played by Eddie Baroo, who also co-wrote the film…

Sleepless Beauty

Sleepless Beauty (Ya ne splyu) (2020)

“Is this like Saw irl?”, someone asks some way into Pavel Khvaleev‘s Sleepless Beauty (Ya ne plyu).  At this stage the film’s viewers too will be recognising what they are watching as conforming to the conventions of ‘torture porn’ – that horror subgenre of the mid-Noughties, kick-started by James Wan’s Saw (2004) and Eli Roth’s…