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The Innocents (De Uskyldige)

Director – Eskil Vogt – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 117m

***

A small group of pre-teen children begin to explore their supernatural powers with devastating results – out in cinemas on Friday, May 20th

Two children live with their parents on a very ordinary housing estate near woodlands leading to a footbridge over a nearby motorway. Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) enjoys going outside to play with other kids of her own age, seven or eight. Often, though, her mum will ask her to take her autistic, older sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), 11, with her, which Ida doesn’t really like having to do.

Anna is autistic and lives largely in her own internal world. When Ida goes outside to play, knowing Anna will likely sit happily in the same place for several hours if left to her own devices, Ida will leave Anna on her own while Ida plays with other kids her own age – Ben (Sam Ashraf) or Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim). Ida assumes that Anna will still be there when she comes back.

Ben is troubled by a strange ability he possesses which he doesn’t understand. He can control people. Alone in the woods with Ida, he explains this to her.… Read the rest

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Europa

Director – Haider Rashid – 2021 – Iraq, Italy, Kuwait – Cert. 12a – 75 m

****

A young Iraqi migrant is hunted by mercenaries after he crosses the Turkish/Bulgarian border – out in cinemas and on demand on Friday, March 18th

A number of movies hang over this bold adventure thriller about Kamal (Adam Ali), a young Iraqi migrant who after crossing from Turkey into Bulgaria finds himself hunted by paramilitaries with guns and balaclavas. One is the gothic classic The Most Dangerous Game / The Hounds Of Zaroff (Irving Pichel, Ernest B.Schoedsack, 1932) in which the passengers of a luxury liner shipwrecked on an island find themselves in a deadly relationship with the big game hunter who lives there. The others are much more recent. Utøya July 22 (Erik Poppe, 2018) is a one take recreation of the Utøya teen camp Summer massacre in which kids attempted to survive a rampaging gunman while Son Of Saul (László Nemes, 2015) follows a Jewish worker-prisoner around a Nazi death camp.

The connection with The Most Dangerous Game may actually be coincidental rather than deliberate, since what inspired Rashid was stories of real life migrants’ experiences. The locations are a Bulgarian woods not a constructed Hollywood jungle set, yet it fits neatly into that lineage.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Amulet

Director – Romola Garai – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 99m

*****

A border checkpoint soldier moves into a suburban, London house with a dark secret in the attic – out on VoD on Monday, February 28th

Somewhere in Russia or Eastern Europe – it’s not clear exactly where – a soldier (Alec Secareanu) is billeted in an austere wooden hut within walking distance of the border checkpoint he mans between certain hours of the day. The rest of the time, he wanders in the local woodlands. In one location, he gets the urge to dig in the peaty earth and finds a small figure – the eponymous amulet – of a female deity.

One day, a woman (Angeliki Papoulia) runs down the road towards the checkpoint, despite his warnings that he’ll shoot her, then trips. He takes her in, introduces himself as Tomaz and lets her use the shelter of his hut. Eventually it comes out that Miriam wants to cross the border, over which her estranged husband took their daughter, with whom she wishes to be reunited.

Is this in his past? It it a dream? It’s not entirely clear. In another reality or time period, Tomaz (now with a beard) is an immigrant in London, living in a squat and struggling to hold things together with piecemeal building work.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

First Cow

Director – Kelly Reichardt – 2019 – US – Cert. N/C 15+ – 122m

***1/2

Western (set in Oregon!) in which a drifter and an immigrant join forces to surreptitiously milk a rich man’s first cow and better their lot – in UK cinemas from Friday, May 28th

A woman with a dog (Alia Shawcat) discovers two human corpses in the present day Oregon woods. Flashback to the nineteenth century. Cookie (John Magaro), a drifter, is the cook attached to a party of trappers travelling through the woodlands. He’s a poor scavenger for food and as a result, they are starving – with much acrimony directed towards him. As soon as they find a small settlement, he departs company and lets the trappers go on their way without him. He watches a rich local take delivery of his first cow with plans for buying a mate and breeding a herd later on.

Cookie falls in with Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee) who has a hut nearby. They bond over a bottle of wine at King-Lu’s shack in the woods and become friends. Finding the cow wandering near their dwelling, they hatch a plan to milk it secretly at night (cookie milks while King-Lu keeps watch from a nearby tree) and use the milk as an ingredient in oily cakes, which they start selling at the settlement and which become a huge success overnight.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Minari

Director – Lee Isaac Chung – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 120m

***1/2

The Korean immigrant experience in the US as a nuclear family set up a farm in Arkansas – on VoD from Friday, April 2nd, in drive-in cinemas from Monday, April 12th and cinemas from Monday, May 17th

Jacob (Steven YeunBurning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two kids Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David, 7 (Alan S. Kim), drive out to their new home in Arkansas. She is a little horrified that the home is a trailer on wheels supported by a basic frame, but he is thrilled that they have land with the best dirt (i.e. for growing things) America has to offer. They are surrounded by a vast area of countryside and woodlands. They speak mostly Korean, but are fluent in English and occasionally use it.

Eschewing the advice of a local water diviner, Jacob builds a well in some low ground where trees are nearby, reasoning that there must be water there. “Never pay for anything you can get for free,” he tells the attentive David, reminding him that in California, where they’ve moved from, they had nothing.… Read the rest

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Rose: A Love Story

Director – Jennifer Sheridan – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 86m

*****

A couple isolate themselves from the outside world by living off grid in the woods for reasons not immediately apparent – out in the UK on digital including Amazon Prime from Monday, April 5th

The LFF put this in their Cult strand and the label fitted perfectly. Impressionistic images show cutlery, cups, CDs hanging from trees. A man leaves a hunting cabin. A woman sleeps in a bed. An eye of a beast in close up. A rabbit. The woman wakes, startled by a man’s voice. She puts paper in a typewriter. The rabbit is killed in a trap.

“I’m trying to give the doctor a reason to be in Prague so Susie can meet him,” Rose (Sophie Rundle) tells Sam (Matt Stokoe, also the film’s screenwriter). She is writing a book and they are living in isolation in the woods. This seems to suit them although something odd is definitely going on. They have supplies of leeches in jars, and he sits reading of an evening after applying a few of these to the upper part of his legs. Then he mashes up the results into a red pulp which comprises her diet.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Director – Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart – 2020 – Ireland, Luxembourg, France – Cert. PG – 100m

*****

An adventurous English girl from Kilkenny encounters a wild Irish girl in the woods who can change into a wolf in groundbreaking 2D animation – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 on Saturday, October 10th, 18.30-19.00 start, in cinemas from Monday, October 26th, then on Apple TV from Sunday, 13 December

This is co-director Moore’s third production based on Irish mythology for Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon following The Secret of Kells (2009, about the making of the Book Of Kells) and Song of the Sea (2014, about selkies / mermaids).

Irish WolfWalkers mythology concerns humans who can transform into wolves and back again, while mankind’s relationship with the wolf down the ages has to do with destroying its natural habitat and a fear of the animal derived largely from its attacks on small animals such as pets and, very occasionally, children. These two ideas are combined in the film WolfWalkers along with Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland as Lord Protector, although historical accuracy clearly isn’t the intention as not only is his name left out abut also what happens to the Lord Protector here is very different from what happened to him in real life.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Subdue the forest

Wolfwalkers
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Certificate PG, 100 minutes
Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December

The tree cutters attempting to clear the forest around the walled town of Kilkenny, Ireland, live in fear of wolves. They also believe in WolfWalkers – human by day, wolf by night – who appear in daylight to call off wolf attacks on humans. Ireland is under English rule, administered by the God-fearing Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) through his northern English officer Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean), charged with clearing the forest of wolves. Bill’s young daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) dreams of slaying wolves with her crossbow. However, children are barred from leaving the city.

This prohibition doesn’t prevent Robyn from sneaking out to the forest, however, where her wolf hunting goes disastrously wrong… Read the rest

Review for Reform magazine.

See also my BFI London Film Festival 2020 review.

Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December.

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Features Live Action Movies

Adoration

Director – Fabrice du Welz – 2019 – Belgium – 107m

*****

Boy meets girl. Alas, girl is in a psychiatric hospital convinced that the world is out to get her… in this filthy genius Belgian movie – from the BFI London Film Festival and available on BFI Player from Friday, December 11th

Twelve-year-old Paul (Thomas Gioria, familiar here as the child in Custody (Xavier Legrand, 2017) likes caring for animals. Such as, for example, the fallen chaffinch he discovers at the bottom of the tree in which he’s building a treehouse. He’s used to foraging outside for food. He spends much time in the woods surrounding the mental institution where his single parent mum works and has their accommodation. One of her conditions of employment, stressed by her female boss Dr. Loisel (Gwendolyn Gourvenec), is that Paul not have any contact with any of the institution’s patients.

One day, his playing is interrupted by the arrival of a girl about his own age in a red dress. The staff are looking for Gloria (Fantine Harduin). Before they find her and take her back into their care, she and Paul have made friends. Aware of the rules, he has admonished her that the institution must not even so much as see them together.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Koko-di Koko-da

Director – Johannes Nyholm – 2019 – Sweden, Denmark – Cert. 18 – 86m

***

Streaming exclusively on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) and released on Blu-ray from Monday, September 7th

A bizarre procession through the woods. A man in a light summer suit, spats and a boater (Peter Belli) cheerfully and enthusiastically sings a song about “my rooster is dead, never again will he sing, koko-di, koko-da” (‘da’ is pronounced ‘day’). Behind him walk a tall, black-haired woman (Brandy Litmanen) with a dog on a lead and a thick set man (Morad Khatchadorian) carrying a dead dog. The man with the boater’s attitude is one of delight yet here he is singing about the death of a bird. Most unsettling.

This procession will later intrude on the lives of the central characters, couple Tobias (Leif Edlund) and Elin (Ylva Gallon). Their daughter Maja (Katarina Jakobson) is attracted to a traditional toy that plays the same nursery rhyme that the procession sings.

The family go to a holiday resort with entertainers. In the restaurant, mum gets sick. Food poisoning? Allergic reaction to mussels? She’s airlifted to hospital and slowly recovers. In the hospital, on the morning of Maja’s birthday, Maja doesn’t wake up.… Read the rest